Thinking Composition: Simplicity, Geometry and Juxtaposition
April 23, 2017
The more you shoot and learn about different styles of shooting, the more naturally you'll start to roll through your imaginary photography "toolbox" with each photo that you take. when it comes to composing and resolving a photo, I generally go through a little micro-conflict in my head while shooting in order to figure out how to best "say" what I'm trying to say in the simplest way possible. Though there are many styles of photography, I think shooting with intentionality is a huge part of creating any successful photo. Even if it's an abstract idea, you should always know what you're trying to say visually. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to think to yourself "I'm trying to say that this photo of a coffee cup represents the bastardization of society", it just means that you should be aware of how you're telling the visual story in front of you. Is the story of the coffee cup best told by zooming in? turning it in profile? isolating it against an empty background? These are all things to think about when taking a photo.
Simplicity: Although simplicity is not always the answer to every photo, it's a tool that I use pretty frequently. I tend to gravitate more towards photos with heavy geometric compositions or a very clear shape language to them. I'm going to use the photo below to demonstrate this idea.
Geometry: Sometimes you just end up in the right place at the right time. When we were out shooting wildflowers at the superbloom near lake Elsinore last week, the stratus clouds had formed a very geometric tiger striping pattern. They looked interesting enough in isolation, but in order to accentuate the geometric look, I took it a step further and framed the flowers in such a way that they create a solid yellow triangle shape on the right side of frame. Whenever possible, I try to treat each photo as a painting, where I have a surface level of detail, but can distill my composition down to solid shapes of color and light. Below is a shape breakdown to help explain what I am talking about here.
Juxtaposition: Like I mentioned before, each photo calls for a different type of shooting style that best showcases the needs of the idea and the subject matter itself. This particular photo highlights juxtaposition of geometry within nature. Nature tends to be made up organic shapes, but somehow it can often be simplified and compartmentalized into a few lines or shapes. As a side note, Mark Rothko is an incredible example of this idea. As his career developed, he progressed further and further away from getting caught up in figurative art, and shifted almost completely to abstract expressionism where he would reduce forms to their simplest geometric relationships.
Here are a few other examples in my work that showcase this idea.