Describing as to what constitutes a good photo, I used a diagram labeling four zones: Composition, Subject, Timing and Light.

One can evaluate and classify any photo using this model and as a guide when taking photos. When the 4 zones all converge, photography is the most rewarding in my opinion. Some of the best photos are in the CSTL section of all four zones, so let’s look at each zone one at a time.

Most people when taking photos are in the Subject Zone, taking photos of events, places and people at important times to them. In order to preserve memories people take photos of birthdays, family gatherings, and when traveling while being mostly focused on capturing the subject and unintentionally are not trying to capture the mood, emotions or try to tell the best story. The saying “a good photo tells a story” is oh so true.

Any capture will always document a subject but will not give you the same feeling of being there when ignoring the other three zones of the model. This is why some people are unhappy with most of their photos as they lack emotion, mood or a story.

We all do it when we get our first camera and its hard to resist taking shots of flying birds, with my first camera I took hundreds of these but all it shows is a bird, it ends there. Never used these snapshots as they are simply boring and beside the bird, there is really nothing to see, so just having a subject on is own is kind of disappointing.

Lets see what happens if we ad a second zone to it like light. Any photo in the light zone will be a lot better or really good, after all photography is about capturing the light.  It is always better when taking a subject/light photo or a well timed/light photo.

Lets see what the timing zone has to offer combined with a subject. Of course timing, the moment we press the cameras shutter can be of extreme importance to the outcome of a capture.  Do we capture the person actually eating the ice cream or the facial expression of anticipation prior. What would be the right timing that would evoke the most feeling to someone looking at your capture. Not only capturing a subject but amazing expressions, composition, a great pose or a combination of them.

The composition zone: Composition is of paramount importance to any photo of excellence and requires an article on its own. Sofar I know about 27 different ones like, the golden rule, rule of three, leading lines, s-curves, pyramid, negative space, centered symmetrical, radial, foreground interest and depth, frame within the frame, diagonals and triangles, patterns and textures, rule of odds and even, fill the frame, simplicity and minimalism, isolate the subject, point of view, color combinations, rule of space, left to right rule, juxtaposition, golden triangles, figure to ground, center dominant eye, break the rules and so on, but the one I find the most interesting is what some painters are using in their work called the balancing scale.

Balance is the visual weight or equilibrium of the objects within a composition that is seen or felt by the viewer. It Is the ability to arrange all the elements so that no one part is overpowering. Definitely worth some research on the net.

Here’s a Subject/Light/Composition shot from the harbor. This scene is interesting enough on its own, but I was there for the light and waited for a more interesting subject to appear ” the boat” yep that took awhile, I then decided to frame the whole scene with the chain and post giving the photo the unique or interesting composition.

Here’s a subject/timing/light shot I took at the park. Subject/Light with no timing means a pretty, but not interesting photo, capture it with the right timing and it becomes a special photo. For the ones who are wondering how many shots it took to get this one the number is 543 using bursts with the same tree as the background. I am walking the dogs there every day at dusk so kept on trying till I got it.

Here is a composition/subject/timing/light shot I took last year at the Blue Mountains Village. This was at the end of the golden hour, great timing to get a shot when there is still enough light for details and at the same time having the lights on at the mountain and buildings. I could have made this shot around noon but I was there for the light in the first place and that was the only reason I was out there with my camera. Now this photo tells a lot of stories, there is a lot going on: in front the child is bringing his little brother to his mom who is clearly interacting with them, the girl friend is laughing while bringing the safety sled to her boyfriend who is loosing his balance while the guy who just fell on the right is laughing with them. In the background people posing for photos, the old couple doing the one leg thing and so on…

Using the the zones I am now taking my camera when the light is interesting as that gives a nice mood to the photo, finding a subject is easy they always come around if you wait, and the timing could be a matter of composition if the subject is moving or just waiting for that special expression. Just being at the CN tower does not justify taking a photo, but the challenge of capturing the light, timing and mood as to how I feel at the CN tower is what makes that photo rewarding to me.

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