Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bullseye Composition.....uggggggh

Spent the day at the State Fair Weds and while there, went in to check to see if any of my images had sold (nope). I had a GREAT experience though, when I unexpectedly met one of the judges of this year's contest.I asked him if he could mind giving me some quick feedback on my images and ended up getting what amounted to a 30-45 minute "master class".


One of the first things he asked me was if I was going to show in a gallery. (Insert shocked face here) I told him that I would actually like to do that some day so he proceeded to tell me how to make some changes on my images to make that happen.

First, we spent some time going over the image that won in my category. He talked about how good the composition was and how your eye was led through the image because there was a diaganol line created by the center of the flowers. Ok, fine, now I understand.......but I still don't like that picture. ;-)

We then moved over to talk about my images. I figured he would say that my presentation (mats) weren't up to snuff, but instead he told me that my composition was off. (insert another one of those shocked faces here). No one has ever told me my composition was off. In fact, that's something people usually tell me is a strong suit.

The first thing he told me was that my door image (for those of you that have seen it) was too symmetrical. He said "good composition has no symmetry". He also said I was "still using too much left brained thinking". That really stuck me as odd since I think that photography is the least left brained thing I do. Spent alot of time thinking about that comment over the last couple days though.

In fact, today I dug up the first 2 images that I'd entered in the fair many years ago. I won first place ribbons both of those years. I was totally surprised by to see that both of those images had "near perfect" composition and neither of them were symmetrical in the least!! Now I'm wondering what the heck happened? When did I get so "balanced" and "orderly"?? Is it the IT work I'm in that's done it to me, is it just being visually tuned out for all these years, the desire for shooting images to "report" back to friends and family about what I saw, or is it as simple as the viewfinder on my crap camera sux? I do know I'm conscious of the fact that I can not trust the viewfinder on that camera to give an accurate view of the final image the way I can with my SLRs so I consistently take one giant step to the right before hitting the shutter button. Perhaps,the awareness of having to make that adjustment iss making me "more left brained thinking"? Not sure, but I do know that whatever "it" is , it's showing up in most of my recent images and now it's annoying me. Need to ask for exercises or ideas on how to loosen that up.

Next we looked at my merry go round shot and he told me that the reason it hadn't ribboned was that it had "Bull's Eye Composition". That means that the place that draws the eye's attention first, in this case the purple of a rider's outfit, was smack in the middle of the image . I honestly hadn't seen that before but he was spot on. My favorite saying of his, and one I'm going to make my motto for a while...."If you have Bull's eye composition, then you have no composition"

He said some nice things about how my stuff definitely had great impact, color saturation and presentation. It was only my composition score that kept me out of top place and from getting another ribbon. I was only down .9 points from the winning image score though so that's not too bad!

Thought for sure that my french red store shot hadn't ribboned because of the black matting, but he said that wasn't it at all. It was, yep, you guessed it, the symmetrical composition. He pointed out how the doorway, smack in the middle of the frame, is solid black and different than any other part of the photo, thus drawing the most attention. He said although it's nicely done technically, it's not going to score higher because of being symmetrical. Drat! Funny how I didn't see I was doing that before I turned them in, but now that he's pointed it out, it's glaringly obvious in a lot of my recent images. Uggggh.

He did say that he thought I "had something" with the door image and that with a few tweaks, if I wanted to enter into other competitions I'd probably do well with it. He gave me some great suggestions about making it bigger, not putting it into the 4x5 ratio, using a photo shopped border instead of a mat and printing on metallic paper (at only $5 a sheet. Holy COW!)

Thought it was cool when he said my work was "really more 'fine art' than the scenics and still lifes" they usually see. Not sure what to do with that information, but I thought it was a cool never the less. He also said I obviously had a very good handle on how to use photoshop and that I obviously understood the "judge's lighting". Huh?? ..never even heard of "judge's lighting" until that day...Of course I didn't tell him that. ;-)

He was very gracious to give me as much time and constructive feedback as he did and I'm grateful for the lesson!! Not only that, but he was kind enough to give me his email address so I could follow up with him for feedback on another image I have done recently.

He happened to be the judge at the camera club competition the next night, so I got to hear another 2 hours of his critiques on over 100 other images. My brain is soaking with information now.

Good Stuff!!


  1. You must be very talented! I love photography myself as well, so I'm very interested in where I can find your pictures :) (HINT)
    good luck and please keep updating your blog! xx aafke :)

  2. Dank u aafke!

    I'm working on a series of postcards/note cards now to benefit an organization called Children of The Americas. Once I get them completed, I'll put up a link where folks can buy them.

    What kind of photography are you into?

    Hey, have you ever been to Amsterdam on Queen's Day? If not, you have to do it sometime!!! Went with a load of friends a few years ago and had a right blast!

    Hope to see you again,

  3. I know this will sound newbie-ish, but where can I go to see some of your paintings?