Compose and Wait – A compositional How


As part of my lecture series at Thousand Oaks Photo Group I have covered a lot of topics:

Light, Color, Line, Perspective, Gesture, Movement, Point of View, Layers, Scale, Placement, Simplicity, Figure Ground, Repetition, Framing, Still Life Linked to a Scene, Portraits of Place, Environmental Portraits, Personal Access

These are all things that can be observed in the final image. The “what” of composition. This past meeting, I wanted instead to talk about the “how”. How do you achieve one of those compositions that effectively use these compositional grammars. My answer, and the answer I have learned from others (including my photo mentor Sam Abell) is to “compose and wait”.

It is really quite simple to describe:

  1. Compose a background.
    • It must be interesting, aesthetically photographic, and include a opportunity for action to occur.
  2. Establish your position, framing, and settings
    • What will be in or out of the frame
    • What focal length will you choose
    • What aperture, shutter speed, ISO – will it require exposure adjustments?
    • Study the relationships between object and plan for where your action will occur
  3. Wait for the moment
    • Let the action walk into you frame
    • Identify the moment within the gesture that will best tell the story
    • Try to anticipate the next movement and be ready

Or if you want to see it in a cartoon (I had a little fun with this)





I have already written a couple posts showing how I do this in action – go look at them now.

For another example, here is a set of images that I shot with a fixed 35mm lens while sitting on a bench at Laguna Beach. I was just sitting there, resting with my husband. These images were captured over the course of about 20 minutes. They show the varied kinds of resulting images that are possible when you compose and wait for the moment.







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