Category Archives: 09 Points

Exercise: Multiple points

The brief:

Set up your own still-lie, with a background that is unfussy but not entirely plain. Use between six to 10 similar-sized objects, each compact in shape. You should fix the camera firmly in one position, aimed down at the background (ideally, use a tripod). The idea is to control the composition by rearrangement, not by changing the framing with the camera.

Begin by placing one object; make a record of this by taking a photograph. Then add the second, then the third, and son on; each time, take one photograph. The aim is to produce a final grouping, which is not so obvious as to be boring (avoid regular shapes), but which hangs together visually.

… When you have finished, you will have a blow-by-blow sequence of photographs that records your decisions. For the final photograph draw a sketch, indicating the ‘lines’ that relate the objects, and any basic shape or shapes that they form.

During my tutor’s feedback on my first Assignment, he suggested that I take a look at Laura Letinsky’s work and the way she ‘creates and uncertain sense of dimensionality with the ‘planes’ of the surfaces. So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try this out. Much harder than it looks! I tried a few different sets, even doing as she did and photographing vegetable peelings and scraps. (Samples of my discarded attempts are at the bottom of this post). I found that one needs something in the frame with a little height to provide some scale and this didn’t work with my veggies. So I resorted to coffee time items.

The only change I made when setting up this scenario was during figure 08 and 09. I had originally had the cream coloured cup with the dark interior lying on its side in front of the large coffee mug. When I decided to add coffee beans, I realised that the coffee beans would look better on a lighter background so I switched the cup around so that the dark brown one was tipped over spilling the beans onto the table cloth.

Finally I had to indicate the lines that relate the shapes and any basic shape that they form. Please excuse the resolution and quality of this final diagrammatic photograph. I do not have Photoshop and had to pull the photo into MS Word in order to put in arrows and then I did a screen grab of the shot and as a result have lost pixels.

I’d say that the main shapes happening in this final photo are diagonals. The sugar bowl and two espresso cups with saucers also form a triangle.

What this exercise has really confirmed to me is that I really don’t like doing still life. I find it extremely frustrating. I do not like arranging things. It is definitely not easy to do in a house where space is limited. Hats off to all those product photographers out there – I salute you guys! Give me people and landscapes any day.

Figure 11

Figure 11

Discarded Images

Discarded 01 - Sea shells and coral

Discarded 01 – Sea shells and coral

Discarded 02 - Vegetables and scraps

Discarded 02 – Vegetables and scraps


Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press. Lewes, England.


Exercise: Positioning a point

The brief:

Take three photographs in which there is a single point, placed in a different part of the frame in each example. Justify your reasons in a short note under the picture, or with a numbered reference in your learning log. With these pictures, and with those you selected from your photo library, consider the graphic relationship that the points have with the frame.


In preparation for this exercise I was asked to write down as many examples of situations that would illustrate a point. I was also asked to look through my photo library and note the photographs that contain obvious points.

Some of the examples of situations illustrating a point that I came up with are the following:

  • an eagle in the sky
  • a flower’s stamen or the centre colour
  • a boat in the water
  • duck/geese grazing or paddling in the water
  • a spotlight on an actor/dancer on stage
  • stones on a sandy beach
  • jewels/coloured stones on a contrasting background
  • a shed or grain silo in a field
  • animals grazing in a field
  • hands clasped together on a table/desk
  • a fruit slice on a plate
  • overhead shot of a figure walking in a street
  • single rock in a pool of water
  • an airplane in the sky
  • a book on a table

Below are three examples of points from my photo library.

Preparation Photo 01

Preparation Photo 01

Although quite large, this fighter jet acts as a point against the blue sky. The contrails from the wings provide us with the sense of movement and direction. Even though the jet is in the middle of the frame, it is places high enough in the frame with just enough room in front of the nose to provide some space to fly into.

Preparation Photo 02

Preparation Photo 02

In Photo 02 the downward arch of the palm leaves point towards the focal point of the photo, namely the canopied dining area on the beach. Although the canopy is placed in the centre of the frame, the centre balance is off set by the palm leaves  and the low placement in the frame and thus is not a static composition.

Preparation Photo 03

Preparation Photo 03

The yellow throat of this blue flower serves as the point in this photograph. Place high and to the left in the frame it is offset by the surrounding blue petals and green leaves.

Exercise – Positioning a Point

There are basically three positions for positioning a single point, namely centre which is usually static and uninteresting, slightly off centre which is fairly dynamic and close to the edge which could be a bit risky. I have included a photo below each image with horizontal and vertical lines drawn through the photo showing the point.

Figure 1 - Centre Point

Figure 1 – Centre Point – f8.0, 1/640 sec, 155mm, ISO 400

Figure 1a - Centre Point with lines

Figure 1a – Centre Point with lines

As can be seen in Figure 1, the navigational buoy is centrally placed in the frame, with the sea wall in the background falling almost in the horizontal centre. Even though one is cogniscant of the flow of the tide, it is a very predictable and boring composition.

Figure 2 - Off Centre Point

Figure 2 – Off Centre Point – f8, 1/640 sec, 155 mm, ISO 400

Figure 2a - Off centre point with lines

Figure 2a – Off centre point with lines

By placing the buoy slightly off centre and dropping the line of the seawall in the frame the image is now far more interesting and dynamic.

Figure 3 - Edge Point

Figure 3 – Edge Point – f8, 1/500 sec, 155mm, ISO 400

Figure 3a - Edge point with lines

Figure 3a – Edge point with lines

In figure 3 I have placed the buoy almost on the edge of the frame. The horizontal line of the seawall is still below the centre line and this combination creates a dynamic image and there is an element of tension in this placement. I think because there is visible movement in the water and the fact that the buoy is a static object the placement right on the edge of the frame works. If the subject had been a boat or some other type of watercraft heading to frame right the tension would have been all wrong as there would not have been enough room for the subject to move into. However, if the subject was just entering the frame and heading frame left then the composition would have worked equally well.


Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press. Lewes, England.