Composition, creativity etc. Part I

One of the questions that are asked a lot, and hardly ever answered is about composition and creativity.
The reason why there is little to no attention to it can be explained rather simple, it’s something that’s not easy to explain. In my workshops I always have a lot of information about composition and creativity because I strongly believe that it lies in those areas where a standard snapshot is transformed into a story, and in reality we are of course story tellers. However I also feel that I can explain technical stuff to everyone, but “seeing” is something completely different. In other words, everyone will understand that if you press the shutter an image is captures, however not everyone will see the image the way it will be interesting. So today some attention to this part of photography.
The coming days/weeks (depending on your responses) I will be posting several blog posts with sample images all discussing this topic. Feel free to ask questions or add images to the threads, this way I can find examples and explain the techniques behind them.


Do remember that this is my personal vision, with creative, humor etc. it’s always very person related, so don’t take everything as being the 100% truth, opinions will vary (and good that they do) however I hope that there will be a lot of elements that will help you improve your own work.


Story telling elements
Let’s take a look at the first image in this blog post.
It was shot at sea world Orlando, and there are a lot of snapshots in my collection, I was there as a tourist of course first place, however I also tried to tell a story with some images, this is one of them. By including the trainer of the whale and the whale in the frame (both waving) you get a story telling image which for me lifts it way above the standard shots of the whale and trainer. The composition however is also important, framing the trainer and the whale for me needed to be in line as you can see here. By adding those two together we have an image that is different from most of the others in my collection and is much more dear to me than the others.

Setting a mood by including people
I love street photography, I love people photography and I love … well to be short almost all kinds of Photography.
However I also strongly feel that an image should have something unique. I could have shot this image (Barcelona) without the girl and the seagull and ended up with just a standard snapshot of this view. However by including the girl in the front and the seagull it makes the image look totally different. I do have to add that both elements were NOT coached, and there is of course always an element of luck in play, although I have to be honest you can also force luck to be part of your shooting style by being patient and able to respond quickly.


Same goes for the following image (Los Angeles)
I just waited long enough for the women and girl to pass the crossing and shot the image, without the two people it would have been just a standard image, adding these two elements made it much more interesting for me.


Same here, I could have just shot the castle, but by adding one element makes the images a lot more interesting.
 Including non people
Sometimes people simply are not available, so you will have to find something else that can add to the story. In this case I found these small gravestones which I included in the shot of the castle, by choosing a low angle and shooting towards the castle I got a nice combination of the two elements. You can of course choose to set the focus on the castle or on the stones (always shoot double), but I choose this image where the focus is on the stones and the castle is the out of focus part in the far distance. The added geese are a nice bonus. 

 Tomorrow some more information including model shots……


I’m always reading (and responding the comments) these give me the ideas for future blog posts so make sure to let me know if you like to see this series develop, or if you want to see something else.

16 replies
  1. Ramon Sanchez
    Ramon Sanchez says:

    Great explanation Frank, Thanks for help us understand hard knock topics in photography. I personally would love to read more about this topic. once again thanks for share with us.

  2. Johan Gislén
    Johan Gislén says:

    Thanks, it’s great to get more insight into these topics. Looking forward to the rest of the posts!

  3. Leigh Catley
    Leigh Catley says:

    This is a great topic to follow Frank. In my opinion you are beginning to touch on what it is that makes a difference between a casual photographer and good/great photographer. This is where separation happens and your images start to capture attention. A friend recently said to me, “you must have a really nice camera”, after I showed them some of my recent shots. Hearing statements like that can be frustrating but I remind myself that it’s not the technical capture by the camera that elicited the comment but how I composed and finished the image. Now I’m not saying the technical elements aren’t important because they are, and while if not properly executed the technical element can ruin a potential great image, they can never take a poorly composed image and make it great.
    Thanks for stating the discussion. I look forward to reading more and getting your perspective on composition as well as your reader’s.


  4. Paul Howard
    Paul Howard says:

    Great read Frank. I find I often stop at one place or another because something catches my eye and makes me think it’s interesting. But I often forget to pause and think of what would make the shot MORE interesting, or help to tell a story. So I love the fact that you are writing on this and detailing the small things that make the photo. Very very helpful and a great reminder.

  5. Sander
    Sander says:

    Nice blog. One question though about your first image, the one from Seaworld…
    Did you had this image already in your mind and you waited for the opportunity to take the pic or was it more like seeing it happen and in a split second grabbing the camera, aiming, making the composition and shoot ?

  6. Rob
    Rob says:


    Nice blog
    and courageous that you pick up this subject. You have said it yourself. It is
    hard to describe and it is complex to ‘cover’ the subject J

    I also
    believe when you learn for example a lot about street photography you can use
    that knowledge/‘eye’ in a lot of other areas of photography.

    Also the
    PhotoWalk (
    can be very interesting to stimulate creativity and it is fun too J

    I am
    recently trying to find interesting things about compositions, creativity and
    learning to see.

    Here are
    some interesting things I have read/watched.

    Like about
    street photography (meyerowitz) :

    DVD’s –
    (On Location with Jeremy Cowart), a lot of examples how to use the environment

    Book – The
    Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

    Of course
    there is much more educative material to be found, so maybe it is cool to make
    a page dedicated to interesting places on the web and other media.

    Anyway, I
    look forward to your next posts !

  7. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    Pink umbrella and yellow road sign : OMG this IS some piece of photogrphic material you have here ! IMHO this a very hard photograph to make not to mention to see in the first place. It’s a very busy photograph very tough to make it hold together without having it breaking apart. I love this type of photograph as I fail to make these (amongst others …).

    Composition is great, road sign answering railroad sign, graphic depth with house and car, color frenzy between umbrella and yellow road sign, woaw I am still amazed at this very very tough photograph, at least for me.

    Ok enough of flattering this isn’t productive I know. Just thought I mention my profound interest into this image as I am sure the attention is on the first one (orca) which as far as I am concerned doesn’t require the same piercing eye (although I cannot be sure I could make that shot I kind of arrongantly think I may have been able to see that one – and probably miss it though …-). I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel not seeing should be the photographer number one fear (at least it’s mine), missing is well, just unfortunate(ok, it needs to happen at some point, still struggling with that …).

    All this to say I love this series of posts, as this I feel is the meat and bone of photography.

    Sorry for being too wordy …

    Great work ! Although my opinion doesn’t weight sh… 😉


  8. Rosy Cortes
    Rosy Cortes says:

     Exactly what I’ve been looking for, I need to learn and train my eyes to create more interesting compositions. Looking forward to read a lot more about this topic. Thanks Mr. Frank for sharing 😀

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