People often ask about composition, and how to take “the best” picture of a scene. And the answer I give is not very satisfactory to many people, because there are many “best” pictures of a scene. What drives you, and makes you want to press the button on your camera, and look at the pictures again when you’re sorting, and then again when you upload them to your favorite social media site, and then again when people comment on them, or should you print the picture and hang it in your office or bedroom or bathroom or give it as a gift, and you have to look at it every day, is different from what drives me, what drives your best friend, what drives the dude standing next to you at the tourist site. So you need to satisfy that drive. You need to make you happy in shooting.
But I can help you with some ways to think about framing, what to include, where to point, when to point, and so on. Here are four photos shot within a couple minutes and about 20 meters of each other. All are very different.You’re standing on the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge) in Prague. The 19th C houses on the bank of the Vltava are beautiful, and the statue, though it dominates the right side of the frame works well enough for me. If I weren’t using the photo in a lesson, I’d probably crop the right side, making the statue less dominant. It’s a peaceful, lovely scene that might make you sit back for a moment and relax a bit. I turned 45° and captured this shot. You can see the tourists walking along the bridge, glancing at the art for sale, the artist updating his Facebook feed, “OMFG, nobody’s buying anything today! These cold spring evenings really suck for art sales!” and the 19th C buildings, still making a nice backdrop. This isn’t so much a lovely, relaxing picture as a “Hey! Look! I went to Prague! I freakin’ loved Karlov Most!” picture. For this one, I turned 180° from the last one to get the caricaturist with his audience. I didn’t notice until just a moment ago that my wife’s sleeve walked into the frame, but cropping her out would also take out the couple taking a picture, so I’d leave it in as another “I love Karlov Most!” picture. Maybe. Finally, I walked across the bridge to look down the canal. This photo isn’t my favorite of the dozen or so I shot of the one canal over 3 days, but for the point of this lesson, it works alright. I consider a rough draft of a better one I made a couple days later. It gives you a nice sense of how Prague looks when you look away from the street in front of you for a moment.
So there’s a quick look at 4 different ways to think about framing and shooting from one spot. You could also do a study of the brickwork, street shots of life on the bridge, graphic studies of rooflines down the river…anything you want. Next time you’re out shooting, and you think you have *the* shot, take a moment to look around and see if you can’t find one more, similar but different photo to take. At worst, you’ll have two pictures, at best, maybe you’ll find a revelation.