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Composition — putting it together

Composition -- putting it together


Village street, Khajuraho, India, 2008

By Phil Douglis

I use negative space here to create tension between the two children. They are each looking in the same direction, but do not seem to notice each other. The silhouette of the young girl at left is echoed by the vertical post, as well as the window and door on the opposite wall. The young man sitting on the step wears a red shirt, which ties him to the large Coca-Cola ad on the wall. The entire image is pulled together by the shadowy dirt street itself –- it is linked to everything in the image.

Some believe that photographic “composition” is purely a matter of aesthetics. I don’t take this approach. Making a beautiful image, one that follows all the “rules of composition”, is not the way I shoot. Rather, I use composition to organize my pictures for meaning. How and why I relate things to each other within my frame, and how I emphasize the point I am trying to make, is more important to me than making a classically beautiful image. I always try to keep my viewers in mind. I hope that my composition will simplify the image for them, making it coherent. Our cameras see unselectively. We must make them see selectively — eliminating random chaos, rather than passing it on to the viewer. I use a number of methods to structure my images to make them express what I want to express. This is an example selected from my archive of digital travel articles posted at

I welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions, and will be delighted to respond. 

Phil Douglis, The Douglis Visual Workshops

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