I find the visual composition of images of great interest – just what is it that makes them attractive or unattractive to the human eye?  And, if we can discover that secret, or even a small part of it, can we put it to use in making our own images more attractive?


So, with the great mystery of visual composition very much in mind, here is an approach that I think both practical and distinctly helpful.



Ian Bramham (photo credit:


Ian Bramham is an architect who also produces black and white fine art photography of devastating quality.  Writing in Amateur Photographer  magazine (8 Nov 2014 – and a mag I wholeheartedly recommend to you), he says:


“For any of you who may be struggling to achieve simple but strong composition in your photos, I’ve found that it helps if you think of composition as a reductive process rather than an additive one. 


In other words, the next time you have your eye at the viewfinder, instead of asking yourself what you want to include in the frame, ask yourself what you can exclude from the frame, to make it simpler and more direct.”.


What good advice!  I find that a great many of the photos that do absolutely nothing for me are those in which the frame is littered with all kinds of visual junk, with so much junk in fact that its impossible to know what the subject might be, where I’m supposed to be looking – other than at all of that junk.


Now this is fine if the image’s subject is in fact “all of that junk”.  A famous image of the painter Francis Bacon in his chaotic studio comes to mind.  To make art he needed that chaos in his studio, he couldn’t be creative without it, and so in this case the photo was supposed to show that.


Francis Bacon in his studio (photo credit:


But in many cases, things that add nothing to a photo – or indeed actively detract from a photo – are left in the frame.  And Ian Bramham is urging that, before we take a picture, we look through the camera’s viewfinder or at its screen, we try to identify such things – and by altering our viewpoint or zooming in, we can EXCLUDE them.  And, of course, in these Wonderful Digital Days, we can easily perform such exclusions post-capture too.


Below are a couple of examples from me.  First, a Spectacled Owl.  The bird was perched quite some way back in a cage, so that I was not able to get anywhere near as close to it as I would have liked, even though I was using a 300mm telephoto.  The upper photo shows the best I could do from outside the cage.  Whereas the lower photo shows my final crop, concentrating on that face and excluding all else.


Spectacled Owl

And earlier this week I posted a Minimalist picture of a duck and some ripples.  Again, the first picture below here is the full frame, while the second is the end result.  I hope this is useful.






About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. bluebrightly says:

    I like your examples very much!


  2. Sallyann says:

    I find I take things out of my pictures. Sometimes by cropping at the edges to take away a distraction and sometimes by zooming in past the distraction before I click the button.
    I’m also often to be found removing the distraction before I take the picture. Dragging the odd traffic cone out of view, or persuading Hubby to stand to one side holding a notice board or such.
    I have a thing about dustbins too… I’ll bend and stretch, lean this way and that, and all to position something in front of a dustbin in my picture.
    You have no idea how many hidden dustbins there are in my blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. paula graham says:

    Indeed…always a difficult one , very subjective and you cannot please all a and everyone anyway.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      No, you’re absolutely right, you can’t please everyone when it comes to composition, style, etc – and maybe that’s the single most important thing that these years of blogging have taught me – that’s we’re all different, we’re all individuals, with our own personal visual tastes.

      I think its really important to realise this – and especially so for those who claim that, unless images are created in a certain way – whether in technical or aesthetic terms or both – the results will be somehow substandard and not worthy of “serious” consideration.

      And maybe that’s what I’m edging towards with this post, i.e. trying to impose my liking for visual simplification on others … don’t suppose you’d have a shovel on you, would you? … to help me dig myself out of this hole ….. 😉 ….


This blog has two pleasures for me - creating the images and hearing from you - so get your thoughts out to the world!

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