James’s 12 tips for Creative Composition

  1. Don’t show the whole thing. – Leave the picture unfinished – let the viewer complete the story (in their head)
  2. Isolate the essence.  Why did you like the scene?  What is the essence?  Isolate it.  Leave out the rest – just photograph the key ingredient.
  3. Don’t over indulge the subject.  Think of the subject/object as a spoilt child.  Concentrate on the pattern, the colour, the texture, the subject will make its own way into the picture.  ( don’t be obvious—be subtle)
  4. Look for movement.  Movement engages.  Freeze it or blur it—it doesn’t matter.  Curves and diagonals create movement.  Crooked horizons.  The centre is balance, the edge is movement.  Look for movement in the picture.
  5. Do it again – do it different.  Nothing wrong with going back over old territory.  Often the second time is better.  (Don’t try to be better – just try to be different)
  6. Follow the light.  It can transform the subject.  Photograph where it shines, where it leads your eye, where it casts a shadow.  Keep walking around until the light lets you in.
  7. Don’t over think.  The concept is usually wrong.  Take what you see, not what you want to see.
  8. Work with space.  What does this object need?  A town house needs to be cramped.  A manor house needs an estate around it.  Try it different ways.  The Japanese also look at the space between objects.  Should objects be separate, should they touch or even overlap?
  9. Do the unexpected.  It’s always better.
  10. Mimicry is king.  Look at photos you like. Watch what others do. Supress your instincts and do it their way.  (It will never be their picture if you take it).
  11. Don’t wait for perfection.  Take the shot anyway.  Learn to tolerate blemishes.  Mistakes can be miracles and save us from conformity.
  12. Look for lines   Lines will connect objects and make them interact.  There are real lines (eg fences) and interrupted lines (eg a row of soldiers) and imaginary lines (eg gaze of a person or direction of a car).  Parallel lines are balanced, curved lines create movement and are dynamic, converging lines give depth, while crossed lines clash and create conflict.  All are good.

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