One of many things I want to do with my cameras is experiment a bit with composition because like a grumpy teenager I’ve never wanted to take ‘normal’ photos.

I was the same at Art College. My parents have reluctantly hung, and pretended to like, a hell of a lot of my shit drawings and paintings over the years.

The idea here is to share some of my perspective and maybe try to explain what I saw or wanted to do in some of my photos so I’m starting with this thing I called …

Split Framing
This is an idea I keep coming back to and it’s the most basic compositional idea I think I know. It consists of chopping the image in half, though not exclusively half, and try to have different things happening in each space.

It can be shape, colour, tone or by ‘content’ (people/no people) and either complimentary or dissonant. Here’s some images and my thoughts about them:

Here I liked the road on the right and the red IR coloured bushes mimicking the angle of the road/pavement on the other side but with the extra line from the dirt mixing it up.

Of course the railing was an important element here in separating things even adding to the left side.


This is more basic. On the right is the mess of urban construction and the right are all the people squished and piped through a straw.

I was waiting for a group of people or a strong figure to come into frame then the lady came along and pointed, her arm almost making a connection with the junk on the right. “That’ll do” I thought


“Having one thing happening on one side and something else happening on the other”. In fact there doesn’t need to be anything happening, it can just be a solid block of colour or texture.

I initially was thinking of the solid block on the left balancing the organic shapes on the right but it didn’t feel right so I moved the frame more to the right and got the sky more involved.

The line made by the buildings in the middle I saw but at the time it was difficult to clearly see how important it was until I saw it on the big screen. The roof of the house bottom right wasn’t as distracting as I thought it’d be or the lamppost.

It’s by no means a good photo or a decent one but I like bits of it.


This is also pretty basic with the wooded texture right and the round trampoline off-left making it look like a stickman taking a nap.

When framing though, I liked the white space above the trampoline even with it’s irregular line. It’s almost like a sky.


The general rule was to have a dividing element cut the scene in two or even three or more.

This was more about separating two groups of people even though they were all facing the same way. Luckily, just as I was about to fire the shutter, the lady on the phone turned. I thought it added something more to that side of the divide.

It’s a shame the DoF is so small but I believe the film speed was quite slow.


This is a bit silly and obvious, with the two different textures and tones. My exposure wasn’t right because you can’t really read the text on the right pane.


I like the converging lines here. It makes me think of cross-hatching when sketching with pens or pencils.


The rule isn’t really a rule because the line, especially the dividing line in the image, has recently been getting blurry of late.

From something as conformed as this photo where you have very vertical lines in the centre with one subject left and converging pavement lines on the right making their way towards the the centre line then the tree and hill lines cutting in, but I didn’t consciously notice the tree line when I made the photo.


To this photo where there is a less clearly defined line separating the two parts though there is a wee one behind the balloons.


Then onto this one which does have a series of vertical lines emanating from the seated figures but the feeling of separation is the terminating line of the seat and the dark trees and pavement.

Down below is a Scottish Independence march. I like that it’s distant from us and unclear (including the woman’s expression) because I personally feel distant and unclear about that ‘cultural’ campaign.


Where is the line now? Although the ‘Split Framing’ idea can easily blur into another idea the gist of it is to split the scene definitively so back to work.

I love shadows, but living in Scotland it’s difficult to find shadows so when you do find them you leap at the chance like a Unicorn gayly leaping over a rainbow.

This is simple. Big buggering post with two figures close on the right and nothing on the left (except there are actually people in the distance).


Legs with abstract looking shadow on the left texture on the right


I’ve even been enjoying split curves but there’s only so many photos like this I’ve managed to see before running over your my own feet.

The curve of the fence was attractive to me and the beautiful green and red flowers on the right enhanced thanks to xpro’d slide film.


The same scene again though this time a different camera and the flower heads are gone! I wonder who could have done that to those beautiful flowers! -cough- my daughter -ahem-.


And here is a sad event. I’d already seen and made this image-idea but went and did it again here. Perhaps I made it to recreate the feeling I had when I first made it (the two images above)?


I’d made a photo similar to this before where South Bridge loomed over the city like a big dark smudge but I can’t remember where it is or by which camera.

Big solid colour or blocks I find interesting especially when it dominates the frame though this isn’t a good example.


This Split Framing idea has recently been extended to include multiple shape splits, something I like a lot probably because of my love of abstract art like the American Abstract Expressionists (esp. Richard Diebenkoron’s Urbana No.6) and Scottish artist, Alan Davie.

This made me think of the ‘K’ in the Dead Kennedys band logo but then you have the wall receding which adds an odd feeling of perspective to the image.


This photo is pretty decorative. I wanted the centre horizontal lines to be as straight as possible but that was nearly impossible. I just liked the pattern on the right side and how different it was to the left.


I liked the multiple angles shooting out, I guess I should’ve stepped to my right a wee bit and centred that dark post a bit more.

It’s uneven but that’s Ok with me.


I could probably go on forever but it’s time for my bed (and check the spelling and grammar problems in the morning).

I might do another one of these but keep it a bit shorter. I’ve meaning to look over my art books to see if I can see compositional ideas in there that might help me make more interesting photos.

They might not be technically good photos but that doesn’t matter so much to me.
As Sebadoh once said in a song (and I’m paraphrasing):

“care that its heart felt rather than whether it sounds like shit or not.”

Until next time …

le fin

2 thoughts on “Composition

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