I teach a lot of photo workshops, and one topic that is on many people’s mind is composition. Students feel they can learn tangible topics like post production techniques and how the camera operates. But when it comes to composition, many participants seem to think you are born with the creative gene and it is next to impossible to learn. It’s true, some folks are hard wired to be more creative than other people. But just like any skill, practice makes perfect. You can learn to be ‘more creative.’ This post is the first of many looking at ways to improve your creativity. Some posts will look at exercises to improve your creativity, and others will look at more tangible guidelines to help improve composition.
One compositional guideline is break up patterns to make the image more interesting. Pattern refers to repeating shapes or other elements in an image. Patterns are favorite subject matter for photographers, everything from rooftops in Prague to vast rows of tulips in Holland. The eye wanders down these repeating shapes and lines, and the image works. We like simple design that isn’t cluttered, it is just easier to take in a nice pattern than a busy shot. But that can be the image’s downfall. Pattern is interesting, but can be boring as well. One technique I like to do is break up the pattern with an out of place element. Maybe it is one bird slightly out of line in a row of birds on the beach. Or maybe it is a small juniper tree growing out of a crack surrounded by similar cracks with no trees. In the image above, taken at White Sands, NM., the repeating wavy lines of the sand dunes are interesting and a nice shot. But finding a small yucca to add in the image makes the shot more interesting. The next time you are shooting patterns, try adding an element to disrupt the pattern and catch the viewer’s attention.