What's in a good picture?

Looking for the smaller detail....................

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Everyone can take a picture - right? When you get home after a day out with the camera and you put those treasured memories on your computer, will your excitement be dulled by poorly exposed shots/poor composition/lack-lustre subjects? Will you think 'why did I take that shot because it does nothing for me now'?

In my opinion, poor composition is one of the main reasons for disappointment in a photograph. The eye can see in a multi-dimensional way and other senses can play a big part in creating a memory in your mind of a particular scene. Take grass, for instance. When freshly cut it gives off an intensely fresh, intoxicating aroma. Close your eyes and just breathe it in. I'd love to be able to bottle that smell so that I could savour it during the long, cold winter months. If you take a photograph of it, it's just a patch of boring flat greenness. The camera cannot capture exactly what we see and sense with our own body. When staring out at a beautiful landscape, our minds are capable of taking in the colour, smell and perspective thus creating a complete snapshot in our heads. When taking a photograph of the same scene, we need to look for anchor points and elements that will trigger those same senses so that when we arrive home and view the shots on computer we will remember exactly how it was when we were there. I do not profess to have perfected the art of capturing such a shot. Indeed, I feel it will take me a lifetime to even scratch the surface. However, I do strive to look for the 'smaller picture within the bigger picture'. If we return to the example of the grass, perhaps taking a macro shot of a few blades with a flower or insect nestling within, we can create a sense of what it was really like at the time. One exercise I try occasionally is to go out somewhere and challenge myself to find 10 interesting photographs within an area no bigger than 20 feet square. At first it can seem daunting and sometimes downright impossible. But as you start to look closely, you can find textures, colours, shapes etc that will make up a useful shot. My next article will explain more about composition..............