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The process of taking a photograph is very straightforward provided we require nothing more than a record of little merit. The ability to create an image is what qualifies us as photographers. This is not just semantics. It is a fundamentally different approach. Taking a photograph implies that we accept what is available, perhaps just choosing which part of a scene to record. There is virtually no creative input, and consequently little satisfaction. Making an image suggests that there is work to be done - by the photographer. The image has to be designed before it can be captured, and therein lays the creativity.

Santorini gatewayBegin by considering the proportions of the frame. Compositions suggested by a square medium format frame might be quite different from those suited to the 1:1.5 aspect ratio of 35mm. In the latter case the choice between landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) orientation must also be made. Be sure always to consider all the options including square and diagonal.

The next stage is to make the overall shape of the subject pleasing. Force the eye to regard the subject as a shape. If the geometry is uninteresting change it in whatever way is appropriate or possible. Try simple changes of viewpoint and look for diagonal lines. Also consider whether perspective, illumination, colour and contrast are such that the illusion of depth will be maintained in the image. If the scene has marked contrast, measure the highlights and shadows using spot metering and add any necessary fill.

Once satisfied with the subject, concentrate on the background. Consider its colour, contrast and detail. Quite small changes of camera angle or subject position can produce significant improvements. Also address depth of field and how it is best utilized. A large aperture might transform unwanted detail into abstract shapes. A lens set to the hyperfocal distance, or a suitably small aperture, will render background detail sharp and perhaps environmentally interesting.


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