If you’re in a rut or you’re worried your compositions are too safe and maybe a little boring, if you know you can do better but don’t know where to begin, give me a chance to give you some hope about making more captivating photographs: photographs that connect!

All of us want to make better photographs, and for most of us that’s not something we were born with. But the visual language that’s responsible for making stronger photographs is something you can learn.

"Composition is everything. You can have all the gear - or all the vision - in the world, but it's composition alone that gets you to the more powerful photographs, the ones that connect and stir something in people."

Take a few minutes to watch this video; I think you’ll see the challenges we all face are pretty common - and they can be overcome!

In the next few days I’ve got another video coming about making stronger compositions, and I’ll email you as soon as it's up; in the meantime would you leave a comment and let me know what’s your biggest challenge with learning composition and making stronger photographs?


For the Love of the Photograph,
David duChemin


  1. For me, John Miner above summed it up both simply and well: “What makes a photograph compelling for me is simplicity of composition and colors and tones.”

  2. Thank you, David. This video made me think about my photographs once again. I’m an animal photographer (pets, horses and wildlife) and sometimes I get the feeling that my photographs are all more or less the same. Other people often disagree, but that’s what I’m feeling. But while watching this video and listening to what you have to say I suddenly came up with some great ideas for my equine photography and it’s just because you said to look for feeling in a photograph. I already knew that and I’ve always tried that, but somehow I ended up doing more or less the same thing every time. Hearing you talk about this way of approaching compositionit suddenly clicked and I’m very enthousiastic about experimenting with these ideas you provoked. Thanks again!!

  3. Very thought provoking David. I photograph more wildlife than people/places, so sometimes it’s more about what’s available and what I can successfully “capture”. I do like to think my heart is in the photographs I publish. To make a great photo, for me anyway, a lot of times it’s about what catches my eye…as in “that’s different…I wonder what this would look like”? Many times, I don’t know until I’ve processed the photos and look at them several times to really “Believe” it’s a quality photo. I’ve been following your work for quite a while now, and I appreciate your dedication to your craft. I’m not a professional, full time photographer, but I am “retired” so I am OUT quite a bit. Thanks for the inspiration. I look forward to your emails. Thanks for making this video series available.

  4. Attempting to respond while also attempting to follow your “snappy” video. —- For me, it is finding the balance of an immediate response to whatever it is that has stopped time for my mind/spirit to focus upon vs. to refine this smudge without over-thinking it. Too many times I lose what I started with attempting to make it better. These smudges of vision don’t need to be better, they just need to flow mindfully.

  5. What makes a photograph compelling for me is simplicity of composition and colors and tones.

  6. Thank you for this video, as usual it’s short, snappy and very useful, in particular I love that you shy away from the usual camera club way of teaching. (ie everything must be on the rule of 1/3, when noone really knows how or why this might work). Its hard to change the perception that composition is a set of ‘rules’ that we need to apply, into the concept of using composition as a way to invite the viewer to ‘read’ our image. I’ve shared this video with our club FB page, I’ll be interested to hear the response.
    Oh, BTW, I love Edwin Mariano’s comment about you being a Photographer Philosopher (it works).

    1. Thanks so much, Jen. You’re the first person EVER to call anything I’ve done snappy, much less short. I am not known for brevity so it pleases me to hear there’s someone out there who doesn’t think I just drone on and on. 😂

  7. David, Practice makes perfect. Every year this video gets better and better.

    1. LOL. Thanks, Robert. Next year it’s going to be AMAZING (and yet so, so much the same!)

  8. Hi David
    Thanks for a very useful set of thoughts about what makes good photographs. You mention looking at photographs in books which is great advice. I would just like to mention some (not all) of the photographers and artists who I have been the most inspired by and who I have learnt so much from – I am confident that you are familiar with all of them: Pete Turner, Steve McCurry, Harald Mante, Frans Lansing, Margaret Burke-White, Ernst Haas, Franco Fontana, Michael Kenna, Galen Rowell and the great Canadian artist Robert Bateman.
    By the way I have been inspired by and learnt a lot from you also!

  9. Unusual technique or composition to draw viewer in to discover emotion or deeper content of why photographer captured the image.

  10. Hi David,

    My biggest challenge is making an ordinary scene into a compelling, extraordinary image. For example, I live in southeastern Nebraska. The dominate landscape is fields of soybeans and corn. It’s also most flat in this part of the state with one exception – an area north of where I live called the Nebraska Bohemian Alps. The Alps are a 30-square mile area of gently rolling hills. I absolutely love photographing the landscape there. There are old barns, silos, cattle, sheep, etc. However, it is the “land” that I love to photograph. To me this area is especially beautiful when storms come through with big billowy clouds that cast long shadows on the landscape. Still, I’m photographing soybean and corn fields.

    1. Hi Patricia. I hear you. But I want to challenge this thinking: “Still, I’m photographing soybean and corn fields.”

      Are you? Or are you photographing line and shape and colour?

      It’s so easy to get seduced by the subject, to think that the elements in the frame are what we’re really photographing, when photographers like Stephen Shore, to use the example cited by Richard in the comment below, have spent their careers exploring the mundane. The mundane is what he does and yet he finds new ways to find wonder within them. Perhaps you need to stop thinking about the elements surrounding you as “barns, silos, cattle, sheep, etc. ” and starting thinking more graphically. The impressionists painted what was around them. It wasn’t exotic to them. Monet painted lilies in his garden, but it was more than that he was painting. We can do that same if that’s where our hearts are. You said “To me this area is especially beautiful when storms come through with big billowy clouds that cast long shadows on the landscape.” So photograph that beauty. Explore it until you see beyond the obvious and find ways to show us the beauty that you see there. I’m cheering for you.

      1. Thank you, David. I appreciate your advice and comments. Start thinking graphically. Perfect! Now, my hope is to photograph the land/environment in its serenity, peacefulness and quiet by drawing in the viewer through shape, line , color and perspective.

    2. Patricia,
      I live in a sheltered coastal area of Downeast Maine and do a lot of simple, spontaneous shooting in my proverbial back yard. There’s much beauty in the totality of the feel of color, light, water, sky, granite, trees, hills. But the scale of landscape and its features are still relatively small and flat. Unless something extraordinary stands out, ie, golden hour light + particularly unstable dark contrasty clouds this week, or I focus on a particular landscape detail and shift to a more abstract approach, my efforts to capture a serene sense of place as I experience them tend to fall flat as photographs. I’m still taking vs making pictures, but that’s where I’m stuck. Your landscape notes makes sense to me.

      Was reminded yesterday afternoon spying supernumerary bows that I’m a closet adrenaline junkie and storm chaser. I’d get in trouble out there. 🙂

      David: Great post& vid. Richard’s criticism seems answered. Forgive me for “who am I to criticize” impertinence but another other source of inspiration/education folks might consider when they feel G.A.S. coming on would be look to at the sample photos people post online related to their lens and camera purchases. Sobering exercise in Craft & Vision,

  11. David – When you preach to limit your photograph to one thing, you are doing a great disservice to the magnificent photographers who understood that a photograph can be about more than one thing – about textures, relationships, color, geometry. My favorite example is Stephen Shore’s famous photograph, La Brea Ave. and Beverly Blv. Los Angeles, CA, 1975. I didn’t “get” this image at first, until I stopped looking for the “one thing.” (It’s NOT about a poorly cropped Chevron sign!) I began to recognize the structures, rhythms, resonances in shapes and color and light that explain why this photo is in the collection of MoMA. The dogma of “one thing,” which every photo club salon in America repeats ad nauseum, shuts photographers off from the possibility of finding new ways to capture the world around us in all its complexity and richness. With your great power to educate and inspire, I hope you will reconsider how often you preach this dogma. Thanks. R

    1. Hi Richard,

      It’s interesting you would use Stephen Shore to prove your point. I think if you look at his work, both in individual images and in his bodies of work ( American Surfaces and Uncommon Places for example) you’ll see he is photographing, indeed, one thing. It’s complex, to be sure, and it’s not “one element”. But his work has a through-line. It’s “about” something. Read interviews with him and you’ll hear a very thoughtful and intentional photographer describing formal qualities of work that communicates something. That something is what I mean when I talk about making your work about one thing. I don’t mean focus on one element – like a bear – necessarily. I mean one idea. Perhaps that’s the juxtapositions in the frame, or the colours. Maybe it’s the geometry, or the moment. And yes, of course, sometimes it seems the photograph is about more than one thing, but there’s almost always a primary subject. Again, I don’t mean subject to mean the elements in the frame. I mean the idea. What the image is about. A still frame can only do so much and our choices come from being clear about what we want the frame to do. Shore is an excellent example of this.

      I’m a teacher. By necessity I’m going to over-simplify things, especially for an audience composed of learners who are not at the same place in their craft and art as Stephen Shore. I feel like perhaps you’re tripping over my desire to teach focus and intention and are looking for nuance on a point I’m not here trying to camp out on. We all photograph for different reasons and aim to accomplish different things. Most of us are served better (including, it seems, Stephen Shore, if you read interviews with him, or his own writing) in making compositional choices – which elements to include, which points of view to take, etc – when we have a sense of what the photograph is about. The one thing. Not the Chevron sign, but the idea, the relationships, the feeling, or the story, among other things a photograph can communicate or express.

      It sounds like I’ve poked a nerve with you and if you’re hear just to get a pet peeve off your chest, I get it. But if you’re actually interested in a conversation (because I love talking about this stuff and none of us is beyond learning or exploring new ideas and perspectives, including me) then I’m happy to keep chatting. Perhaps you would find this a fuller explanation of what I tried to communicate in this video about “the one thing” – though it too is going to be incomplete. Most ideas are.


      The last thing I want to do is cut photographers off from “the possibility of finding new ways to capture the world around us in all its complexity and richness.” That’s beautifully expressed, by the way. If you’ve read much of my writing I hope that you would see it all aims at this very thing. But when making photographs it’s hard (impossible?) to make intentional compositions that say something if you first don’t have a sense of what you’re trying to communicate. The more things (ideas, relationships, etc, not visual elements) you want it to be about the less impact it’s likely to have. This isn’t dogma, it’s a desire for impact. The ways in which this plays out in photographs and bodies of work is as varied and individual as the photographers themselves.

      Thanks for bring Stephen Shore into this conversation. He’s one of the masters I think everyone should study, not only his images but his thoughts. Here (for those still reading) are a couple of my favourite quotes culled from interviews with Shore:

      “It seems to me that a good photographer is a combination of two things: one is interesting perceptions and the other is an understanding of how the world is translated by a camera into a photograph. You have to have something to communicate.”

      “Some photographers have vision, and other photographers have a vision.”

      “Ansel had been drinking before I got there, and while I was there he had six glasses of straight vodka — a prodigious amount of vodka — and at one point he said, “I had a creative hot streak in the ’40s, and since then, I’ve been pot-boiling.” And I thought, when I’m 85 that’s not how I want to look back at my life.”

      You can find a great interview with Stephen Shore (by Alex Soth) transcribed here: https://www.ft.com/content/e81096de-726b-11e9-bf5c-6eeb837566c5

      1. Well said, David. And thanks to the person who left the somewhat “annoyed” comment. It all helps noobs like me to understand what is going on. I guess it’s like photography: different perspectives enrich the story!

  12. Connection between humans or animals as well as early morning and late afternoon indoor light, so pretty. Thank you David for your inspiring lessons.

  13. I love how you think and teach. I have followed you for many years and will continue to. Images that show true human emotions are what gets me best. Whether that emotion is with an animal or person, it is what makes the world go around for me.

  14. For me a great photo is one that makes me stop! It causes my mind to stop and ponder the image. I want to identify what in the image sparked a certain emotion within me. What I reacting to the color? Was I reacting to the smile on the child’s face? Was the emotion of sudden apprehension coming from the unidentifiable person within the shadows in the image? A good image, for me, is one that the creator’s intent is very clear and evident upon first glance by the viewer.

    1. Really well explained, Nancy! Thanks for chiming in. I think that word “intent” must be one of my favourite words. I used to use the word “vision” (and still do) but I think “intent” might be a little less ambiguous.

  15. Hi there, David.
    In a few minutes i’ll be watching the second video, but first, i’d like to say a few things. I love photographs of people. Documentary styled, streets, portraits. I’d love to do it more but, i’m scared. However, deep down, my heart is all nature. Landscapes, trees, skies. I like them pulling me in, with a great sense of depth and, sometimes, i like them with a lesser degree of it, almost flat. I also love minimalism. Once (“The Visual Voice”) you asked me to try and figure out what do i love to do. What makes me happy. Well, what if i’m still not sure, or rather, what if i still haven’t been able to translate those tastes or preferences to a language that’ll help me find my voice?
    Yeah, i’ve been struggling with this question ever since you’ve put it!!!
    I sometimes think it’s me, my fault, my lack of intelligence or sensibility. Or maybe i’m just not paying enough attention.
    Here and now, the best i can give you is that, usually, it’s the story, the choice of moment that grabs me first. Then, the tools chosen by the photographer to tell that story, will determine if it lights my spark.
    I haven’t been able to say this sooner but, i truly hope you’ve enjoyed a warm, peaceful and joyful Christmas, spent in good company ( and with some great music and wine) and i wish you and your loved ones a wonderful New Year. May we all fulfill at least one dream. After last year, i think we all deserve it.
    I’m a Portuguese living in France so, please, forgive me if my English is not the best.

    Thank you for being part of my creative life.

    All the very best.

    Sérgio Vasco

    1. Sérgio, your English is better than my Portuguese and my French combined. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you too. I hope it was full of light and laughter and that your family is healthy and as much together as can be.

      You asked: “what if i’m still not sure, or rather, what if i still haven’t been able to translate those tastes or preferences to a language that’ll help me find my voice?” The best response I can give you is: keep looking. I think we place too much emphasis on expressing our vision and using our voice (both important) but not enough on exploring those things. They are not something you find only once and then get on with the work of making photographs. In many ways I think we get on with the work of making photographs in order to discover that vision and voice. It took me 20 years to even get close. Sometimes that’s frustrating, but mostly it’s just part of the adventure. Photograph what delights you, in the way that delights you and increasingly, I suspect, you will find that you become more focused, more sure of what you love and what you don’t. I doubt very much that the problem is you! This is a process of life-long discovery. But when you do begin to find hints of what you want to do and how, then it takes no small amount of courage to follow that thread and see where it leads.

      I’m so honoured to be part of that journey, Sergio. Thank you. Happy New Year.

      1. David, i’m sure you have lots to do, lots of people to inspire, but i absolutely needed to let you know of my gratitude for your very kind words of encouragement.
        Thank you so much.
        Take care.

  16. Both your video and your subscriber’s comments are so inspiring and beautiful! I’ve read 4 of your books and I am now waiting for The Heart of the Photograph. What an excellent job you have done, I can’t thank you enough! For me the number one thing in a photograph, actually in every aspect in life, is energy, if you understand how it flows you will excel!

    1. Thank you so much for that, George. I’m constantly humbled by the spirit of mutual help and inspiration that happens here on my blog, much of it without my help. 🙂 There are such good people here, and I’m grateful you’re among them. It’s a special kind of energy, for sure. Thank you for your encouragement and support!

  17. When someone online asks me where I learned to take Images that they like on my postings or emails , I always pass your name and website, I tell them with todays smartphones, everyone is a photographer, everyone should be creating better images to share. your sharing of knowledge is how to do that.

    You are a wealth of information that you so freely share, Your books are so creative in inspiration. I’ve recently retired and look forward to taking even more images each day with your supplied wisdom , experience and knowledge, Keep up the good work.


    1. Mike – You’re my new spirit animal. 🙂 Thank you for this. I’m starting to get a little self-conscious about all these comments. Wasn’t this meant to all be about composition? You people have turned it into some kind of lunatic love fest, which is way better, but unexpected. LOL. Thank you for this, Mike. I’ve said it to others this morning, and it’s no less true with you: I’m honoured to be part of your creative journey. Thank you for that unimaginable privilege.

  18. Thanks for creating this video! I loved the part about energy and using those diagonal lines.I shoot mostly still life floral arrangements and now I am considering how I can use those lines in my own images. I guess just because it is “still” doesn’t mean it can’t have energy!
    I think that I am drawn to images with very directional light and strong emotion. I tend to like images with one major focal point and not a lot going on that will compete for my attention.
    I love your thoughts on analyzing great images, I am doing an art study with a friend and we have been looking at famous paintings. It is amazing to me how much of what I am learning is spilling over into my photography.
    Thanks for sharing your insight with us!

    1. Leah – I replied to your other comment but I would love to see where your study of famous paintings takes you in terms of the influence on your still life work. Will it change your use of light? Will it encourage you toward colour palettes you haven’t yet explored? I’m intrigued by what this means for your work in a year from now!

  19. I love your books, but short, focused videos like this really do help me. I’ve heard you talk about composition before, but it takes repeated hearings to really go anywhere with it. There is so much to learn about photography and so much information out there; it can be overwhelming and trying to learn it all. Sometimes, one feels like they’re going nowhere.

    My photography has always been part-time and wandering through various genres. But I’m slowly working toward a focus that works for me, and reminders to think about composition really help to consider what I really want to do and what kind of photos I really want to make.

    I’m going to pick up some of the photo books I have on my shelf that have been collecting dust and study them this week.

    I am grateful and hope you continue on writing and helping all of us become better photographers.

    1. Thank you, Tristan! No worries about me continuing with what I do. I love it. But I’m also increasingly unqualified to do anything else! LOL. I’m glad the videos help. Thanks!

  20. Thank you, David, for reminding me of these three elements, I am an animal photographer (horses, pets and wildlife) and I try to capture the character of the animal, but sometimes I get too excited and forget about that element, which results in less interesting images. I think I have to control my excitement a little and try to figure out again how to capture the essence of the animal and it’s environment. I also want to do some more black and white conversions, because that can really have great impact on animal images if done right (for example with dodging and burning in Photoshop).

    1. I learned more about photography watching your 6 minute video than I learned in my 1st 80 years. I took journalistic photos with fancy gear and called myself a photographer. Thank you.

      Mike Raboy

      1. Well that just made my day, Mike. More to come. Next video comes tomorrow (Wednesday, January 06). Thanks so much for the note.

    2. I’m so glad the reminder was helpful, Betty-Lou. It’s interesting, but the one group I get emails from about composition are the wildlife and animal photographers. Some of them tell things more too fast for composition to be a consideration. I just tell them that’s what makes it so challenging, but composition is not less important. Just harder! 🙂 I think the more comfortable you get with the possibilities the more choices you have in terms of expressing the essence of the animal. Thanks for the note. A couple more videos still to come. I hope they help!

  21. This was oh, so inspiring. I definitely like your angle. Not GAS, not PP, but feeling and imagination – what makes art?
    What makes me like a photograph is not style nor BW, Color, street, etc. it’s whether it makes me sigh or take deep breath.
    Then my eyes gazing into its depths and inventing visions.
    So far, it’s other people’s photos that inspire this meditation – but I’m getting closer, thank you.

    1. Fantastic, Jacques, thank you! Feeling and imagination – exactly. Of course there’s no Photoshop plug-in to sell for that, so people talk about it less. Who needs emotion when you can just make the image sharper!? LOL. The beauty is, learning to put these intangibles into our images isn’t as hard as trying to conjure them within us in the first place. I’d rather be the person with vision who struggles to express it with the camera than the person with nothing to say and all the technical skill in the world. 🙂

  22. Wow! you offer so much and i am so glad to have found your site! there was a point when i was shooting anything or anyone (mostly of my kiddos and how they were going about their day) almost every day, i think my composition was on spot. i was able to tell a story without words and get a reaction from those who follow let alone comment on my story. I fell into a creative rut and for some reason stopped shooting altogether. Finding your site, gave me purpose again to pick up and be behind the lens to capture life. Thank you, sir! Happy 2021!! So honored to be here…

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Shirley. I’m thrilled you found me. I’d love to know what brought you here, but however it happened, thank you for being here and for letting me be a part of your creative life. I don’t take that trust for granted. It’s an honour.

  23. The “wow” factor for me is seeing something I would not have thought of – whether it is the composition, the lighting, the mood, or the subject matter. This is what opens me up to new ideas, new directions, and keeps me excited to continue pursuing the art of photography.

  24. David,

    Thanks for the three insights and the challenges. For years I have spent time reviewing other photographers’ work to understand their choices and why/how they worked. I try to learn from each photo I study. From my perspective, simplicity in composition and lighting adds the power and impact that a photo needs to tell its story. BTW, The Visual Toolbox was a landmark experience in my efforts to hone my craft. I return frequently and repeat one or more of the lessons to remember and reinforce. Thanks!

    1. Ted! Thanks so much for that. The Visual Toolbox is the one book I didn’t think would really do very well in the stores and I’ve been amazed at the reception it got – and still gets. I’m so glad it’s been helpful to you!

  25. Thank you for this video! A lot of things come to mind. But you asked, what makes a compelling photograph. I think it’s if everything fits. Goes together. There’s a harmony, and there’s contrast. There’s something that makes you stop for a second. Or touches you. Preferably both. I did the thing you recommend: Buy a book. I bought several. They are all street photographers. I am a pet photographer. I love those books and those pictures. And… I DO street photography. In the stables, on a walk with the dogs. It’s not “nice photos of your pet” portraits. It’s life, captured as it happens. I am learning a lot from those books. Thank you.

    1. Hi Eilwen! What a great response. I don’t know that I’ve had anyone reply with “harmony” before but that’s so important and so hard to articulate. Well done. I love, too, that you are studying photographers outside your own genre. Street photographers are often so good at recognizing great moments. Thanks for chiming in! The next video comes on Wednesday!

  26. I don’t know a lot about composition but it seems to coincide with perspective or vantage point right? I’m a beginner in photography and the learning curve of equipment and lighting are hurdles preceding composition so your article helps me step back and look at thing differently. Any suggestions as to ingesting composition concepts is much appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Hi Dale – Composition is about what we do with the elements in the scene. What we include, and exclude, and how those elements relate to each other and to the frame. It can include perspecive, for sure. But also things like juxtaposition, scale, repeated elements, balance, tension, and what we do with line and shape. It includes what we do with colour, and light, as well as how we use all this to tell stories or maximize the mood of an image. So it’s a big subject! Watch for the next two videos, I think I can help you with this stuff!

  27. Greetings from Japan David,

    I shoot across 3 different Photography genres:
    1. Black and White – I am intrigued by the Interplay of Light & Shadow, Lines & Geometric shapes and Tonal Contrasts…with a specific interest in HI-Contrast captures as done by Fan Ho and Daido Moriyama. When I look at a photograph in this genre, the ones that captivate me are those with a BNW blend of the elements above and Balance…it is crystal clear to me what the photographer wanted me to see or be drawn to.
    2. Street / Culture Views – Living in Japan, I want to convey the everyday things I see in a way that tell a viewer about the moment I captured in a way that celebrates the Japanese-ness of that moment while exhibiting basic Human experiences. When I look at someone else’s photograph in this style, I want to be visually drawn into that moment when the shutter button was pressed…Humanity+Genuineness.
    3. Macro – This is an area I’ve only recently begun shooting in. To me, a photo in this genre needs to have great Composition in terms of Light, Color and optimal subject placement with sufficient contrast to make the subject jump out of the frame in an almost 3-dimensional manner.

    In this first of 3 videos, I’m intrigued by your use of the phrase “Visual Language”. I really want to hear more about what you mean along with an in-depth discussion of Visual Language elements and use in my Photography!

    1. Another wonderful and thought provoking short video. For me its how the light falls on something, or how a colour contrasts with its surroundings. I just love it when the sun pops out from behind the dark clouds and lights up the tree trunks, or when i find a late autumn branch of orange leaves hanging onto a tree against the dark grey of the surrounding woods. I just love stormy skies that are lit with a little sunshine that make the trees ‘ping’ with amazing colour. For me its giving my time to see these things – and not forcing it. Happy new year David.

      1. Happy New Year, Charlotte. I love that: ” I just love stormy skies that are lit with a little sunshine that make the trees ‘ping’ with amazing colour. ” We should make ‘ping’ an official technical term. It’s perfect. 🙂

    2. Hi David – Another Fan Ho fan here! I adore his work. Daido too, though I admit to being more curious about his work than affectionate about it. 🙂 I’m glad you picked up on my use of the words “visual language” – I think all our compositional choices (among others) give us a vocabulary within the image. They allow us us to say or imply certain things, not always with precision, and not always avoiding misunderstanding, but they do allow us to express ourselves, to say something with our images, and I think the more clear we are about the use of that vocabulary and elements like scale and tension, balance, repeated elements, the energy of lines and the role of perspective, the stronger what we say can be. Keep an eye open for the next video!

  28. I just want to thank you, for just being here and doing what you are doing. Just to know, that someone cares about the real things that matter, is so helpful and gives me hope that I can learn to see like you and think like you.
    Es tut so unheimlich gut, jemanden zu kennen, der keine Kamera verkaufen möchte.

    Thank you so much .

    1. You just made my day, Stefan. Thank you for that. And you’re very welcome.

  29. You have made interesting points on how to compose an engaging photograph. Love that energy thingy in your explaination. I think the concept of visual language is really intriguing. Using the photographs to speak and express meanings in a meaningful way are worth exploring. I think everyone should learn to do this. Words are very limiting and images transcends words beautifully in many instances. On this, I find your philosophies really touch my soul. Reading your books expanded this point greatly. I agree with Edwin on you being a Photographic Philosopher. 🙂

    I find photographs that express deep emotion to be very captivating. It may simply be the serenity, peaceful atmosphere of an empty street; or the noise and colorful justaposition of a busy street. It can be an empty look of an old lady; or the innocent eyes of babies. I find that staring on those photographs for moments shifted me to a different dimensions altogether, one that moves me deep enough to even cry at the emotional resonance. Thank you for adding more depth to my life.

    1. Wow, Keane, you’re welcome. And thank you for that encouragement. Adding more depth to the lives of others just about perfectly sums up my hope for my teaching and pretty much everything I do. I can’t thank you enough for articulating that to me.

  30. Thank you for the video! I really enjoyed it.

    As a nature photographer I look for elements that keep the viewer looking to the image a little longer. Sometimes it’s the question at what am I looking right now and sometimes it’s the action and or the surrounding. But those elements only work with the proper light and as long as the photograph is balanced.

    1. Thank you for chiming in, Andius. I think one of the hallmarks of any strong photograph is the desire it creates in the person looking at it to explore it and to linger. Great compositions do that, and yet also retain a certain harmony and simplicity. Not an easy task at times!

  31. Dear David,
    Thank you for your engaging and very interesting video.
    I will study the work of the photographers you mentioned just above as being your current faves. Thank you for mentioning them!
    I spent my childhood years awestruck, gazing at portraits with exquisite tones and dashing style, such as those by George Hurrell, Cecil Beaton, Clarence Sinclair Bull, and being enraptured by the magical play of light and shadow of those such as Roger Furze and Joseph Walker (moving pictures in their case, but they were lit like paintings). That must have sunk into my DNA , because I still admire photographers who handle light as though it’s a living thing, the main character. Certainly, Fan Ho did this in the 1950’s.
    Thanks again for your 3 ways to improve our photos, which I intend to implement immediately. You are greatly appreciated!
    Best wishes to you for a happy, healthy, and successful new year.

    1. Good morning, Elizabeth! Thanks for this. You articulate your thoughts so beautifully. You must have a real classic style to be so drawn to the names you mentioned. And Fan Ho! You’re the second or third person in these comments to mention him. He’s such a secret to so many photographer and I think he’s just brilliant. One of my favourites. Going by the photographers you mention I wonder if you’ve come across the work of Yousuf Karsh?

  32. My biggest frustration is not getting what I see onto the page. Sometimes the light is so amazing, it seems anything I choose to shoot will look amazing. But it’s not there when I pull it up – the colors are less, there are far more distracting elements than I noticed before, somehow the light and the picture looks mundane. Is it my processing or my choices when shooting. I’m never sure – even when I bracket.

    1. Hello Nikki, are you shooting in RAW and what processing programs are you using? I always shoot RAW and use Lightroom/Photoshop to process. Although my photos look drab when first pulled up, a few tweaks here and there can really make them pop. Regards Ron.

      1. Thanks for that, Ron. Just posted a similar reply before seeing yours. I appreciate you chiming in.

    2. Hi Nikki. This is a common complaint. It could be your exposures, but most likely it’s that you’re not taking full advantage of the possibilities in post-processing with tools like Lightroom, etc. If you’re shooting in a RAW format they images will lack contrast and saturation and almost always rely on us to bring that back. Often this lack of life in the image comes from the fact that the camera just doesn’t see like we do and it needs us to make intentional decisions to over or underexpose. What the camera wants is an average exposure, and that’s often kind of lifeless and doesn’t allow the special quality of the light to get translated.

  33. Hi David,
    right now I’m challenging myself to work with only a smartphone (not always fun with color and light) and mainly do pictures in nature I then use on my blog. Thus there often is an association between text and picture that establishes itself somehow … long after making the picture.
    All of this often leads me to search for a detail in nature I can highlight or make overly visible – this creates a mix of focus and background which seems to build some interesting tension; I may also try to use a different type of contrast – in that case of colors dividing the picture or being part of the perspective.
    Something else I regularly try to use as an element in the composition is light – searching for ways to capture the sunlight (less easy when the sky is grey in wintertime ;-))

    Thank you for the work you do and share. It’s always fun to follow your thinking and ways of creating photographs

    1. Hi Francoise! I love that you’re challenging yourself. The iPhone is an amazing tool, and its intrinsic limitations force a certain amount of creativity.:-) Thanks for chiming in on this. It’s always so fascinating to hear what others are doing. Happy New Year!

  34. Hi David,

    Thank you very much for this video!
    J’écoute et je lis, toujours avec beaucoup d’intérêt, vos réflexions et conseils pour améliorer nos photos. C’est pour moi un changement fondamental que je dois opérer dans mon approche de la photo et j’avoue que je trouve cela difficile car même si je comprends parfaitement les idées et que je les partage, les mettre en pratique est une autre paire de manches. Généralement, lorsque je choisis de faire une photo c’est qu’il y a quelque chose qui a attiré mon attention et dans la majorité des cas, c’est la lumière! Or je crois que je perçois globalement la scène qui s’offre à mes yeux sans savoir dire vraiment pourquoi, si ce n’est à cause de la lumière. Du coup, j’ai de la difficulté à analyser sur place et en 3D ce que je cherche à transmettre ou à traduire. J’y parviens plus lorsque j’ai l’œil dans le viseur et encore plus après coup lorsque je visualise la photo sur l’écran. Je crois que c’est un apprentissage qui prend du temps mais le défi est là et c’est ce qui me motive à avancer. Actuellement je lis «La démarche du photographe» que je trouve extrêmement intéressant! En tout cas, merci beaucoup David, j’apprécie énormément tous ces coups de pouce que vous nous donnez. Excusez-moi pour le texte en français. Voici la traduction de Google Translate:

    I listen and read, always with great interest, your thoughts and advice to improve our photos. It is for me a fundamental change that I must make in my approach to photography and I admit that I find it difficult because, even if I fully understand the ideas and share them, putting them into practice « is another pair of sleeves!» Usually, when I choose to take a photo, there is something that caught my attention and in most cases, it’s the light! However, I believe that I generally perceive the scene which is offered to me without knowing how to really say why, if not because of the light. Therefore, I have difficulty analyzing on site and in 3D what I am trying to convey or translate. I’m more successful when I have my eye in the viewfinder and even more successful afterwards when viewing the photo on the screen. I believe that it is a learning which takes time but the challenge is there and it is what motivates me to move forward. Currently I read “The photographer’s approach” « The print and the process» (?) which I find extremely interesting! Anyway, thank you very much David, I really appreciate all the help you give us.

    1. Good morning, Anette. Happy New Year. Your challenge to see the 3D world in 2D is not uncommon. It’s one of the ways in which the camera sees differently from us. But with practice you learn to predict it. I call it “the flattening” and, like you, I find the viewfinder is a big help. Also the computer monitor later on, and while it’s a little late then to change the photograph, it helps us learn and predict. As you get more comfortable with the technical aspects of this craft, you will also get more comfortable with this and finding new ways of translating what you see “out there” into the photograph! Thank you for commenting. It’s always nice to hear from you. I love your enthusiasm! 🙂

      Bonjour, Anette. Bonne année. Votre défi de voir le monde 3D en 2D n’est pas rare. C’est l’une des façons dont la caméra voit différemment de nous. Mais avec la pratique, vous apprenez à le prédire. Je l’appelle “l’aplatissement” et, comme vous, je trouve que le viseur est d’une grande aide. Aussi l’écran de l’ordinateur plus tard, et bien qu’il soit un peu tard pour changer la photo, cela nous aide à apprendre et à prévoir. Au fur et à mesure que vous vous familiariserez avec les aspects techniques de ce métier, vous deviendrez également plus à l’aise avec cela et en trouvant de nouvelles façons de traduire ce que vous voyez «là-bas» dans la photographie! Merci pour vos commentaires. C’est toujours agréable de vous entendre. J’adore votre enthousiasme! 🙂

  35. You asked what we think makes a good image. When I look at my best images, it’s usually the strength that contrast gives – most often to a B&W image. So it’s black that so often “lights” my image.

    Thank you for the video.

  36. I do so appreciate your encouragement and teaching, David. Haven’t said so, though, until now, even though I’ve been “following” your postings and purchased several of your books over the last two years or so. As for one of the things that captures my interest in a photograph (which you ask about in this video today –January 3, 2021), it’s some quirky twist, Elliott Erwitt like, especially if it reveals the funnier side of life. But that’s just one thing. I’m also struck by minimalist photos. Nothing new here, but it gives me the chance to tell you, at last, how much I learn from you. I’m a retired seminary professor, by the way (Fuller Theological Seminary), so we have that in common! 🙂

    1. Hi Richard. Happy New Year. Sounds like we have a couple things in common, not the least of which is an affection for Elliot Erwitt who is one of my favourite photographers. His ability to add that juxtaposition or ‘twist’ is incredible. I was a comedian for years and still don’t see the world through my camera the way he does. 🙂 Thank you for the very kind note, and for the years of support. I’m honoured to be able to serve such wonderful people.

  37. Great thoughts there that I must learn to follow, and thank you for sharing that will us. I sometimes have to judge along with others in a small group, and what do I go by, the technical aspect of the emotional pull. I find the emotional pull powerful, and yet often the technology seems to be the winner. I love a mood that captivates me, be it in colour or B/W

  38. Thank you for another insightful video message. Similar to another persons comment I am not sure I have the patience/time for some of the elements that you talk about even though they resonant with me.

    I like to photograph places I have been and would like to be so much more confident in photography of people, but again this takes time (which I don’t always have that luxury).

    I really enjoy in this and your image works series the use of specific photos to demonstrate your messages, have you thought of showing photos that don’t work to get your messages across – sometimes when I am listening to your programs or reading your books I have been wondering whether an example of a “bad” photo may equally provide good learning points – just a thought.

    Wishing you a happy new year

  39. Hi David
    I appreciate your recent post about rethinking why and how we capture images. As someone who has been primarily a sports and event photographer for many years, I have recently turned my focus on how to better capture images that don’t necessarily unfold in rapid sequence of a sport or game or that follow a prescribed agenda of a celebration, speech or other public event. This topic is good food for thought as I seek to refine my personal photography palette. Thanks

  40. I like images with contrasts and/or ambiguity. I prefer those images that provokes my mind looking for questions and answers instead the beauty of a landscape.
    And thank so much for sharing your knowledge in such inspirational way.
    Best regards from Viña Del Mar, Chile.

    1. I find interesting lines and patterns of color are what draw me in to even consider the photo. Sometimes my photos are only lines or only color as in intentional camera motion shots. I do know that when there is emotion I feel when I take the photo, it has more to convey to the viewer. I produced some of my best work in documenting the destruction of our property by a wildfire and the aftermath of emotions that went with it. I think these emotions were captured.

      I definitely need to spend more time with photography greats and their works. Whenever I do inspiration is sparked- just like your talks turn on lights for me. Thanks.

      1. Susan – You nailed it. One of the best things we can do is study the photographs that we ourselves find compelling, to kind of ‘unpack’ them, figure out what the photographer did and why, and then find ways of adapting those techniques and decisions to our own work. Photography aside, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your property to fire. Talk about emotional. I lived at a youth camp that burned down one summer, it was really traumatic. I hope there’s been some restoration, both to you and the property.

  41. I have learned so much about seeing & creativity from listening to your videos. Love that they are not hours long … short attention span. Thanks again.

  42. What makes a captivating image? An image that makes me want to keep looking at it. Not just glance and turn the page but truly look and experience the image.

    My biggest challenge is the feelings and emotions that I feel from my images are related to being there when the image was captured. These feelings are internal to me. How do I convey these feelings to an uninvolved third party?

  43. David, thank you for your emails, videos, and books! The photos that I seek to make, and seldom, if ever, do, are those with impact, simplicity, mystery, and beauty. I do mainly landscapes, but when I look through them I find that none are worthy to be shown to anyone, let alone printing them. I’ll keep working at it. Thank you for all you do!

  44. i want people to feel something in their heart and spirit when they see any of the photos I take…from the simplest of everyday life to the beauty of nature. I think of the viewers when I take the photo thanks to your books and sharing. I keep coming back because of your great way of teaching, the way you make it understandable, challenging, and fun to learn. But just like a photograph, I can feel your heart is to help others as you share and teach. That is the true blessing. Thank you for all you do to put the fire in my soul to keep digging in to learn.

    1. Thank you for pushing me to think about what find compelling in a photograph. I’ve done this other art, as well. I’m always drawn to depictions of light. But I’m beginning to see that my eye is being led to the light It’s not an accident. Then is when I begin to examine the composition. I’ve had images that captured my intent only to have the viewer be distracted by poor composition. I’ll keep listening and learning. Thanks.

      1. This makes me happy, Margaret. I’m all about nudging. 🙂 Composition can be learned! And it gets honed over time as other considerations become a little more natural to us and we’ve got a little more attention to give to the sloppy bits or the corners we didn’t pay attention to. In many cases it’s just the need to slow down and take our time, be just a little more careful about the placement of elements and less worried we’ll miss the shot or mess up the exposure. But it will come! 🙂

  45. Photographs that I find compelling are visually strong and “grabbing”, whether because of color, light, contrast, etc. When I look longer at it, I will find there is more to it than the visual strength, but that is what causes me to want to spend time with the image.

  46. For me, an image is compelling with strategic use of light and shadow, and incorporating the all-important emotional ingredient of gesture.

  47. I have several of your books and find they have a solid set of great lessons. You present in person and in your videos in a way I can consume what you have to say and then apply it as best I can. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much, Andy. This means the world to me. I’m just a guy who loves this craft and wants to make it a little more meaningful and a little less frustrating for others. 🙂

  48. OK David. On the image of the man inside and outside the man outside is walking by. How did you see this, compose it and take the picture all while the man outside is still fully visible?

    1. Good morning, John. The easy answer is: patience. Not many of my photographs are spontaneous, raise-the-camera-to-the-eye and get it one shot kind of images. I see a background I like. I stop and play with compositions, I wait for something to happen. I also often use my LCD screen to compose so I can see things – like people walking – coming into the frame. This helps tremendously with timing!

      1. This is how the renounced former National Geographic photographer Sam Abell works, as well. Layering from background forward, and patience.

        1. Yes! Exactly how Sam talks about it. Thanks for bringing him into the discussion, Sue. I love Sam Abell!

  49. Hi David,
    Great advice – things to think about and work to include. I think the most important element is ‘heart’ – if you’re really excited about your subject/lighting – then you’ll capture a photograph with more heart than if you don’t really care about the subject or the lighting is nothing special. One thing I do see is many of these blog comments go back to September 2019, so not sure if this is a new video or ?

    1. Hi Linda – You’re right. Heart is everything. But heart has to be given its best expression and for that we need visual elements – light, line, moments – and a consideration of where and how they play in the frame. But without heart it’s bound to lack life and meaning. As for the video, yes, I release this series once a year, so it’s not so much new-new as new to many of my newer readers and new to 2021. These are the perils of making a video and using it for a couple years in a row. I leave the older comments because they can be helpful to many. Thanks for chiming in!

  50. Hello David. I already know a lot of your tips from your books I have read. But it is difficult. I have only been taking photos for 2 years and now that I have mastered the technique quite well (of course I can’t do everything yet), I ask myself exactly what you are talking about here. How do I get impressive pictures? Some of my pictures are – at least I think so – but I don’t know why. Please don’t laugh at me. So I’ll follow your advice and hope that in the future I’ll know how to create an expressive picture – before I press the shutter release and not coincidentally after it. I look forward to the continuation of this series. Thank you for your support.

    1. Hi Lothar. Yes, you’re right: it’s difficult. It has taken me 35 years to get where I am. And it’ll take me many more to become the photographer I will one day be. Step by step, my friend. The technical is where we all begin. Next steps are much harder as we learn what make an photograph – not the camera (though that matters too!) but the composition. Which elements do we put in, which do we exclude? Where do we put them relative to each other? What role do lenses play in arranging those elements? What about perspective and story? It’s a lot to learn. Imagine it being like buying a laptop: you learn how to use it, you get really good at it, but you even know the basics of the language you speak, but opening Word and writing poetry – really good poetry – that takes time. But it’s a journey that is marked with progress and little victories along the way and as long as you keep enjoying the challenge, it makes the long journey worth the time. 🙂

  51. Hi David, one thing I’ve always kept in mind, I think it was from Ansel Adams, when you look in your camera and what you are framing. Leave out everything that is unnecessary. Think about what you are shooting before pressing the shutter.

    1. Georges – Absolutely. Photography is often called an art of exclusion. So much depends on what we leave out. And you’re right about thinking before we press the shutter. One of the reasons I made this series was to begin a conversation about how we think about composition – what we put int he frame, and how we arrange those elements. Thanks for chiming in!

  52. Thanks for starting your video communications with us (your readers/viewers). I agree with you. A photograph needs to have a heart, a focus, “a point of departure”. In an Instagram era, it is simply what makes your scrolling thumb stop and study the image. Keep it up, I am great admirer of yours, I have several of your books and consider you one of the great ones (for the right reasons) out there (even if you don’t do social anymore.

    1. Thanks so much David for your video & help so we can improve our composition.

      For me the big thing is emotion, excitement when I see something I am compelled to photograph. Sometimes it is just a simple sunset that makes me want to just sit there & look at it over & over.

      Your last suggestion is great. I have been doing this for a few years. I am on Flickr & use this for inspiration. I have seen so many outstanding images there & do study what I like about them & I believe that has helped me improve over time..

      Look forward to you next video.

      Thanks again

      1. Thanks Diane! The one thing I would urge you to consider is this question: how do we get the emotion into the photograph? It’ll be different for all of us, but the elements are the same: story, light, composition. I think the more we refine our composition skills, the more emotion we can get into the image and the more intentionally we can do so. I hope you enjoy this series!

    2. Thanks, Jose. I appreciate the encouragement. I know many people wish I were back on social but I can contribute more meaningfully to people like you and others by focusing on deeper means of communication, even if they are less frequent. It’s nice to know I’m missed. Thank you for that. 🙂

  53. Timely comments! I like emphasizing a particular colour or an action but often get distracted by putting too much in the frame. I also sometimes put a lot in the frame thinking that I will bring something out of the image in post production. I feel that sometimes this results in lazy compositions.

    1. Great insight, Rajeev. Now it’s time to begin making more photographs and once you do what is normal for you, try a couple more, taking more and more out of the frame until you take out the one thing that makes the image fall apart. Then put it back in. It’s an exercise in simplifying your composition and it’ll help you learn what is, for you, too simply or just simple enough.

  54. Images I am drawn to communicate moments in time that are worth remembering. In life, most of us have had experiences when we are stopped in our tracks, forced to take in the moment for one reason or another (spectacular color, display of emotion or beauty, extreme beauty, …); that rare moment worth savoring. When it happens to me, I call them my Maxfield Parrish moments.
    At a very young age, I was gobsmacked by his work and it has influenced the way I approach composition.

    1. This is great, Don. I love the heart you’ve expressed here. And Maxfield Parrish? It’s not often someone mentions a name I’ve not heard of, I’ll head to Google the moment I’m done here. Thanks for weighing in!

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, but especially for your time and wisdom. I’ve learned much from your work and continue to read/reread your books for inspiration. As for M. Parrish, look at his “Winter Sunrise” for one of my favorite illustrations. His use of saturated hues, playful lighting, and overall composition just knocks me out. As a project, I plan to try to reproduce some of his more realistic work in film if I can. I’m also rereading Drawing from the Right Side of your Brain. I’m hoping to let those activities shift me to my right brain and see what effect it has on my work. I’ve hit a plateau and need a new way to get past it.

        1. What a fantastic idea, Don. Before all this Covid nonsense hit I had hoped to find a life-drawing class to take. Perhaps I gave up too easily and might have found one online, but I’ve always found drawing (which I do better than some and worse than others) to be a great way to learn to really see, especially to see and translate 3 dimensions into 2. I’m going to look into the book you mentionned – thank you!

  55. Good morning!! I love light, warm light, light that fills the room and makes you feel warm. I would love to be able to pair light with composition. Perhaps I should just take the time to study, compose, move and move again and see which is the most compelling. Thanks for the reminder of diagonal line, I never consider that element

    1. Good morning, Pam! I think Light is what draws me to photograph most of the time. Light and the results of light: mood, shadow, colour, reflection. You said: “Perhaps I should just take the time to study, compose, move and move again and see which is the most compelling.” Yes! I call this process ‘sketching’ and consider it a non-negotiable part of my process when composing a scene. Move and move again! Try it! Play! Risk! 🙂

  56. I always look for interesting light, then compose . Good “subjects” are easy. I’ll usually try to find a way when both light and subject matter are thin. This is when my composition skills come into play. Don’t waste too much time on stuff that isn’t happening. keep walking.

    1. Thanks, Carole. We differ in our approach here: “Don’t waste too much time on stuff that isn’t happening. keep walking.” This is sometimes absolutely the case. But when I find a background on which to base my composition, and it really resonates or excites me, I stay and wait. The foregrounds change too often to just waste the whole thing just because it’s not happening in the moment. The added advantage is that the longer I stay the more present I become, the more perceptive, and my compositions and sense of moment get refined. Of course there are many ways up the mountain, and it’s important we know what works best for us.

  57. David ,
    Je lis et relis vos livres pour me donner un coup de bâton .
    Je regarde des livres de photographes mais quelquefois cela est difficile de comprendre leur intention
    J’écoute vos vidéos en français grâce à Laurent mais avec tout cela se n’est pas toujours facile.Grâce à vous le corage revient Merci beaucoup .A la prochaine fois en ligne

    1. Merci beaucoup, Genevieve! Non, vous avez raison, ce n’est pas toujours facile, mais c’est stimulant et significatif, et une telle merveille quand tout se passe bien et que nous faisons une photo que nous aimons. Merci beaucoup pour cette aimable note.

  58. Speaking of lived experience instead of a photograph. Light and shadow always stops me in my tracks and fills my chest with a shaky kind of raw joy. Color with lines that evoke the sense of wonder that I feel in threshold moments in nature – again stop me, hold me, and pull me in and fill me up. I throughly enjoy moments of multiple transitions; day to night with the lady moment of a heavy storm. These are moments I could not imagine living without.

    1. You’re a poet, John. Thank you for this! Now to get that “shaky kind of raw joy” (I love that!) into the photographs we make. That’s the challenge.

  59. In your photography class, the photo submission is a card game of visual language. I have to tell myself on this point.
    Hello, everybody. Excuse my late response. I realized a big issue when I received the email from you. “The result is everything in photographic world.” So, I immediately sent you new another submission photo you want.
    To explain my situation, I could see my vision. But I was misinterpreting your question with too much only my superindividual progress report. Because in fact I already had the second submission photo. “I live forgetting the result. This is my blind spot. I’ll be careful from now on.”
    This time I had a particularly valuable experience. I really appreciate you teaching me.

    1. I love your books and now, after watching this video, know why. Your ideas are as much about how we live our lives both behind the camera and day-to-day. I am often distracted by thinking about what is next rather than being in the moment. Your three composition ideas are about thinking and considering before pushing the shutter down. I also find myself trying to do too much each time I go out to take photos. I think that if I spend a little more time planning not only where I am going to take photos but why I have selected that place and/or subject and taking fewer but more thoughtful and energetic photos I will end up with results that I am happy with. As always, thanks for your calm and reasoned approach to making photographs.

      1. Thank you for that,Rick. I hope this series helps you. And yes, you just nailed why I do what I do. Photography for me is a beautiful metaphor for how we live our day to day lives, and how to be more present and alive in those moments. The rest is gravy. Beautiful, compelling, high-resolution gravy. 🙂

    2. As a textile artist working in representational imagery, I am reminded that good design (and therefore composition) is good design, whether in a photo, textile art, architecture, landscape design, product design…. the Elements & Principles are the same. Why a photo is good can vary from image to image, but at its heart (that word again) it is that it conveys something powerful. I was going to write that it conveys what the photographer wanted it to convey, but that is the opposite of what I say about my art. It isn’t that the viewer sees what I intended, but that the viewer sees something that is important to them. I let the viewer in essence be a part of the art–they collaborate/work with me/my image to create something that speaks to them. I kept thinking about a book I fell in love with as a child: the Family of Man. Time to pull it off the shelf again and go study why those photos speak to me.

      1. HI Sarah Ann – Two things stand out to me about your comment. The first is “good design is good design” Yes!! OMG, if i could just convince photographers to study the elements and principles of design!! The second is your reference to The Family of Man and the need to “study” those photographs. We tend to be so enamoured of our own photographs that we don’t often take the time to study the masters. And yet that’s how we begin to understand photographs and to develop our visual palettes. Photography books are a bit of a vice for me and I’m completely unrepentant about it! 🙂

  60. I have always struggled with being able to clearly say why I consider a photo good. I liked your first suggestion about heart, or working toward a key element and excluding anything not working in consort it.
    I will spend more time going over other’s work and keeping an eye out for that heart.
    Thank you for another helpful video.

  61. Hi David – thanks for the video. I feel as though I am in a rut. I primarily photograph birds, wildlife, any nature. I’ve been doing it forever. I go out and I do the same thing because here’s a bird, here’s a rabbit, here’s a flower. Everything about the photograph is different from one day to another but yet, it’s the same. I enjoy it but I’m not feeling the challenge, the inspiration. Perhaps I need to leave my comfort zone but I’m not sure what I should try. What inspires me is a beautiful mountain range or a bright sunset but you don’t always have the opportunity to get those type of shots. And, I do love B+W photos. I do like your tip to look at the work of other photographers and I will give that a shot.

  62. Ruts. Jeez do I have ruts. I am an avid amateur who never leaves home without a camera. My problem for the past few months? I think I took better photos a year ago. I cannot nail it down, the reason why, but it’s true. Despite a year of some photo classes and workshops and experience, I look at my photos and feel I have degraded. LOL. Don’t want to sound to doom and gloom because that’s not me. But…is this a hump that many people go through? I enjoyed your video, sent by a friend.

    1. Hi Jim. We don’t know each other but can I suggest a possibility. We all have ruts. One day we’re fine, moving forward happily in our groove, the next, what the heck! Where did that rut come from?! For me I’ve identified it. See, our vision and our taste keeps growing (hopefully) and as it grows it often takes a while for our craft to catch up. So looking at your work and realizing it’s not as good as you once felt it was (let’s face it, when i started out, EVERY image was amazing) is a sign of growth. The key is in keeping your foot down on the gas where challenge is concerned. We always have to push oursleves, it’s constant. And, this too is key, at least to me, you have to look forward not back. Feelings are a funny thing. But do I feel the ruts often? I do. Do I sometimes just need a break from the camera? Often. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless the reason you leave the camera at home is just because the rut is comfortable and you want to stay there. Then the rut (that was once a creative groove) becomes a creative grave and that’s no good either. Keep at it, Jim!

      1. Wow…great insight.

        So looking at your work and realizing it’s not as good as you once felt it was (let’s face it, when i started out, EVERY image was amazing) is a sign of growth. The key is in keeping your foot down on the gas where challenge is concerned.

        Every photo was awesome, great, a Pulitzer prize winner for sure! LOL. You are saying that perhaps I am becoming more discerning? I like that. And it’s quite possible.

        Thanks a lot.

        1. Exaclty. I think we become more discerning but at the same time our ability to make images that meet that standard isn’t there yet. The vision always pulls us forward. Or it does for me. Glad this helped, Jim!

          1. Thank you David and Jim. This was/is my challenge with photography as well… that that and the stresses of lots of challenges (not good ones) happening in my life right now leaving me in a creative rut. This too shall pass and I hope to be out and about photographing soon. Thank you!

    2. Dear David,
      To answer your question:
      What makes a captivating photograph for me :
      emotion and a feeling of intimacy that would transpire from a photograph, a sens that a special ¨moment ¨ was captured by the silent witness of the lens, and in that achievement , my emotions as a viewer meets the ones of the photographer, as if a full circle of a moment in life was completed in a shared memory.

      Thank you for your work , and again , thank you for ¨The soul of the camera ¨, a book with a soul 🙂

  63. I’m a fan of contrast and juxtaposition, which, sometimes, amounts to the same thing. I photographed a wooden post (obviously, dead wood) that had a hole at the top of the post with grass growing in the hole (about 1m off the ground). I like contrast in light: clouds blocking the light on the trees in the background but not blocking the sunlight on the driftwood on the beach in front of the trees. I know what you mean about some photos not having a clear subject or focus. This is very helpful to hear and hearing this will hopefully help me to remember it when I’m shooting and editing.

  64. This is a totaly different aspect to the way I have learned photography and I will try to do what you have suggested.l I have been burned out this summer and have hardly picked up my camera.
    Thanks for the inspiring video.

  65. I love abstract photos that make good use of lines, curves, shapes, light, shadow. I’m a big fan of abstract photography.

    I love this video because you talk about the art of photography, the photographer as an artist. I’m not a technical person and I use the basic functions of my camera and that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy composing my image in camera, not in LR. I love LR, but for basic functions as well. The most compelling thing for me is noticing something – a splash of light on the wall that creates an interesting shape; an elongated shadow that creeps across the street – that “catches in my throat”, makes me stop and gasp. Then I go get my camera. 🙂 I love simplicity and minimalism, that’s what my photos are all about.

  66. Thank you for taking the time to make this video, I always learn something from you. The 2 things that light the spark for me is interesting light or shadows and photographing people or animals in their unguarded, unposed moments, when you see the real personality shine through.

  67. Think I’ll pull out those old Time-Life books on photography from the 60s or 70s that have been gathering dust in the garage. A fresh look at some old pros.

    1. Yes! That’s perfect! And the nostalgia! I wish I’d kept so many of my old Nat Geo and Time-Life magazines for the same reason.

  68. Hi David,
    Thanks for this video. I have always enjoyed your books on photography!. The one thing I have learned and which makes me enjoy photography, is to isolate the subject and to keep it minimalistic.

  69. David, I went to a car show near here last weekend, and one of the shots I made was of the radiator ornament on a 1938 Packard. When I got home and pulled it up in LR, I was disappointed somehow. I concluded that the ornament was nicely focused, etc., but that there was too much clutter behind it, including folks in bright clothing strolling along the street. And, for the first time, I found myself thinking that I needed to clear out that clutter, so that the viewer (me!) could see that the ornament was “what the photo was about,” without being distracted from it. I switched it to B/W, cropped what I could, and tweaked in some further ways (clarity, e.g.), and it’s become one of my favorites from that day. And now! Here I find that I stumbled on a principle that you have affirmed so encouragingly in this video! Thanks so much!!

    1. You’re welcome – the willingness to simplify comes, I think, with empathy. When we put ourselves in the shoes of others and imagine how they will see the image, it pushes us to simplify, to isolate, and to give greater visual mass to the most important (per our own priorities) elements. Keep it up, Richard!

  70. Thanks David,
    I always enjoy listening to your talks. I like the challenges you put out there for us and how you make one question the “process”.
    I love the prints you have hanging on the wall.
    Would you mind sharing the size of the print and the border size and the frame size.

    1. Hi Reggie – Thanks. To be honest I’m not sure about those frames. They’re IKEA frames and if I had to guess they’re about 16 inches square, with 12×12 inch prints inside them…

        1. I love photos that portray ordinary things in a new way, like visual poetry. I’m also strongly drawn to photos that are emotionally evocative. Thank you for creating this content!

  71. Thank you very mucj, David. I love yoir blog and learned a lot from you:-)
    I make food phorography. landscape and architecture (medieval churches and castles). In fact, I practsed your Number 3 suggested tip. I learned a lot by examining photographies in architecture books and in food magazines. I’m a university scientist and in my field the best way to improve has been to start with the careful analysis of excellent examples. Thsi works and gives me alway inspiration.
    Thank you!

  72. Great video – always leaves me thinking – I know that often the mood of a photograph (and dark moods) are often some of the things that I love capturing – whether it’s an ordinary photograph that is changed in post processing to the mood I am after, or from the start because the lighting is there. Of course, my other pastime is photographing pets (mostly rescue dogs) and I love trying to capture their personalities in the photographs. Thanks for sharing….always great videos!

  73. Hi David, I enjoyed your video. Well done. While I think intuition plays a big part in photography, the instruction you have given is very constructive. After 20 years as a professional tourism photographer, I still find showering myself with strong imagery – and asking myself what makes them so – remains one of the best ways to improve my craft.
    As I’m often heard to say, it’s not enough to say you’re constantly learning in photography; in fact, you need to seek out the opportunities.
    And the instruction you’re providing continues to add richness to my endeavour. Thank you and, again, we’ll done.

  74. Hi David-
    Thanks for the videos, I couldn’t agree more. Stopping to analyze a photo that has an impact is a great start to improving your own ‘eye’ for framing before tripping the shutter.

    I like a photo that has a WOW! effect. Your first look should have an impact, either saturated colors or KISS usually does it.

    1. Thanks for that, Ken. We all see the Wow! in different ways, but isn’t it wonderful when it all comes together. I thin the key thing in trying to make those Wow! moments is in identifying what makes them for us – light? Moments? Lines? The more we have a sense of what gives us our own wow, the more easily we’ll be able to put into the photographs.

  75. Thanks for the video David. I think my greatest challenge is slowing down. I often get nervous and anxious that I will miss something if I slow down but have learned that it is necessary to ensure your intent is achieved. When I don’t slow down I end up making mistakes. I have to remind myself to slow down and wait and this is especially true in street photography.

    1. That’s it for a lot of us, isn’t it? Just slowing down, taking the time to really observe and the time also to correct mistakes and the inevitable missteps we make when we take needed creative risks.

  76. Hello David,
    Thank you so much for the inspiring tips.
    I feel a great link between my personal evolution & the pictures I do.
    Before, to my eyes, the only good picture were bright colorfull and descriptive.
    Today, focused pictures are my favorites: abstract, graphic or organic , details and subtil lights …

  77. I’m drawn to minimalistic and abstract photos. I want to work on that. In the meantime I find it hard to resist a beautiful flower and wonder if I’ll ever grow beyond that.

  78. I read this quote many years ago and it has stuck with me. It is a distilled truth. If I think about that as I photograph, it influences my choices…however variable they may be from situation to situation.

    “Composition is the strongest way of seeing” EDWARD WESTON

  79. David, great ideas and challenging as well. After 35 years as a corporate and editorial photographer I am now doing studies to reveal hidden stories in our natural history and I find it very compelling to search out the real story and put that to a visual language. The visual story isn’t always easy to reach since time and nature have had a tremendous impact on a locations current presentation. Your words and thoughts are an inspiration for my task and continue to bring new life to my current projects, thank you. I also recently purchased several of your products, “A Beautiful Anarchy” and “A Visual Voice”, they have both rejuvenated my personal work and continue to provide great insight into making more stronger images.

    Thank you.

  80. Hi David,

    Thanks so much for this.

    For me a compelling image is most often about the subject/story that’s being told and/or the light (or lack of) in the image.

    Question… Would you be willing to share and “assignment” that could be applied to studying great photography? In other words, offer framework or strategy for really effectively studying other photography for the sake of seeing what makes for a compelling image?

    Thanks so much,

    – Danielle

    1. Hi Danielle – Funny you should ask this. Part of the course I’m offering soon (The Compelling Frame) has exactly this in each lesson, a section called Study the Masters in which I point you to a specific photograph and give you some guided questions. The problem with a template is that all images are different.

      But on the broadest scale, any image you look at you could be asking questions like:

      What role do the lines play?
      What kind of mood is the light contributing (and which decisions did the photographer make to use that light)?
      What role did the choice of moment play?

      Of course there are many more that have to do with contrast, balance, framing, depth, etc, etc.

      You could also just start with: what decisions did the photographer make to make this image so effective? Or, Why does this image work/not work for me?

  81. Thanks once again David for this great video, you are so inspiring. During your first point I found myself in the fog…my mind brought me back to my shoot last week in the fog. I have been to this site before and brought home some pleasing images and so returned to continue my study. I love being 2 miles from a city center standing in a dense fog next to wetland canal and in the shadow of a state highway just before dawn. The intention that you taught me to be aware of.
    All of a sudden I walked into the frame(s) of the images that I had in my mind. I took a dozen bracketed shots from different angles and then stopped to look. I think that next time a will take my time and compose more slowly though the results were good I am never fully satisfied. Perhaps another trip ?

  82. if a picture evoke/redeem a feeling, emotion, “old memories”… using great/big wods, when it touches my soul… that’s the greatest…
    otherwise it should have a story, clean and clear, or it is only a postcard (i don’t wnat to misjudge them, they are also important, but on another way…)
    I think that the third suggestion is the most important, seeing/learning other photographers/painter’s pictures, an study them, why are they working on me, on other people’s…

  83. Very nicely said. For me, the most compelling images always tell a story (even if you’re not sure what the story is.) Use of contrast, lines, etc. help to strengthen the image but the story–or the heart, to use your term (which I love)–has to be there.

  84. Hi David,

    Thanks again, David. Your point no. 1 “what is this photograph about?” reminds us that photography is a form of communication and that’s it most important role, “to say what I feel”, is probably the hardest thing to achieve when we have so many norms and expectations set for us.

    I’ve recently been enjoying some of Martin Parr’s images, which are usually not simple and may be disconcerting, but definitely do run counter to most ideas of what “art photography” should be. Good for him and a great stimulus.

    On point no. 3, I am persuaded that we should look at the history of image making, not just photography, and I try to persuade others of this. We can learn a lot from art history … and I will keep trying!

    1. Thanks Geoff – I echo your encouragement to study other visual art. Right now the big struggle is often to get photographers just to study photographs, once they do that I’ll push the envelope a little further and introduce them to painting, sculpture, mixed media, etc. For now it’s a “pick your battles” kind of thing. 🙂

  85. Thank you for these videos. You are a natural teacher. Would you be ok if I shared them with my high school students?

    1. HI Karen – Thank you! Yes, please feel free to share anything on this blog with your students. I’m honoured, thank you!

  86. For me: a landscape is captivating. Landscapes take me out of myself, which is a great relief. Landscapes are usually very calming and a nice antidote to the frantic energy that’s in all of the Facebook and Instagram images I see every day.

    1. Thanks Lee. Is it all landscapes, do you think? The calming ones, for example, are they calming simply because they’re landscapes or is it something more? Some choice of the photographer to use certain light, certain space or scale? I agree with you very much, just nudging my readers to go deeper and see that it’s probably not just subject matter but the choices made to give that subject its best expression.

  87. Hi David, excellent video and thanks for taking the time to make them.
    A strong image for me is one that draws the eye into the image without getting lost.

    Your words of wisdom will help me achieve this with practice.


    1. You’re welcome, Lindsay, thank you for chiming in. I’d love to know what “draws the eye into the image” for you? What kinds of decisions does the photographer have to make for that to happen?

  88. Hi David, thank you for this video. I’m so grateful that you have tackled this subject and in such a way. I can’t put into words what makes me like a photo. I know what I like when I see it, but I can’t put it into words and that makes it hard for me to duplicate it in my own work. I don’t know why this is, because any one who knows me would tell you that I am never short of words 😀 I am looking forward to the next installment.

  89. I love to create images that simplify, kind of like a Japanese or Chinese painting with lots of empty space. Funny thing is, many of my “complicated” images, with lots of stuff happening often turn out great. I guess in the end its all about, as you say, the composition. I wouldn’t study just photographers, but fine artists down through the centuries, this is a free and fantastic way of seeing what composition is all about.

    1. Hi Tom! Always nice to see your name here. You’re right about studying visual artists, I just have enough difficulties getting photographers to study their own medium, so asking them to branch beyond that seems like I’m pushing my luck. 🙂

  90. Great! The heart of creative photos. Photography is an imperfect art; imperfect being the state of ALL, and well to celebrate. But focus and energy overcome imperfection to provide that message, the excitement, the idea of an image. Photography, unlike many other arts, is often more constrained by time. What we see is often fleeting and evaporates quickly. Being able to ‘see’ and capture within the time window is difficult and worth cultivating. Seeing the energy and focus in a potential image is the skill I seek; which often eludes me.
    Even as a young boy, many, many decades ago, the photo images I saw from other great photogs, inspired me to pursue that same ideal. Today they remain the high standard they’ve been for so long.
    I can also recommend looking at paintings (and often, many sculptures) for inspiration and insight into composition, energy and focus. Painters, sculptors, still media artists have the time to create the vision they have in their mind’s eye.
    Whenever ‘tech’ seems to overwhelm, I try to refocus on ‘seeing’. Thanks David, keep the good stuff comin…

    1. A strong image for me is one that provides a great deal of contrast using light and shadow. Such an image will usually have an expanded range of tonalities.

      Learning to use light and shadow is my no.1 challenge. Your image with the smoke and person with the shadow is an excellent example.

      My image of the ballet dancer creating an extended shadow (published in your magazine ) is one of my most successful images.

      Thanks for the tips re composition, which do not mention any rules.

  91. This is great—thank you so much!

    For me, a great picture has good light, good lines, good moment. That’s what I try for every time.

    Thank you for your wisdom!

  92. Thanks for this video, David. I recently bought two of your books (The Visual Toolbox and Within The Frame) with money I was given for my birthday. Reading these books is already changing the way I look at the world and decide what I want to show in my photographs.
    A strong image for me is one where there is some ambiguity or incongruence that makes me look again. Your split image taken inside and outside in the video is an example of this. It’s one where you can’t just look and click ‘like’ but makes you look again to find out what’s more than the first impression.

    1. Thanks Barbara – I love that you’re thinking along these lines and understanding what works for you in terms of what’s in the image itself. Now to translate that to our choices with the camera! 🙂

  93. Thank you very much, David ! At last somebody speaking of something else than ISO, aperture, speed, autofocus mode and other technical subject. What is important is the result : a picture.

    1. Yes! I’ve been talking about this stuff for years, the other things (important as they are) can be learned easily and, frankly, bore me. But compositional stuff, the things to which we respond! The possibilities are endless.

  94. Hi David, thank you for this video. I struggle with two elements of my photography. Firstly I see it as a tool to document my world and I spend a lot of time photographing ordinary everyday street corners with a fairly wide lens to have a record of that corner as it was at that moment in time. There is often no one point of interest and there isn’t intended to be. It’s just what I saw right then and there. But I find it difficult to reconcile this aspect of my work with my need to create and make beautiful images that are more about me putting my expression into the photograph. I find joy in photographing things from different perspectives, seeing things that other people might overlook, angles, lines, shadows (oh so many shadows) but I don’t really know what I am trying to say. (I have read The Visual Voice and am totally unable to pick a subject to focus on for a year . . . .) So I suppose that is my challenge, to work out what I’m trying to say and therefore what the heart of the photograph is. And to reconcile the pure “documentary” side of what I do with the more creative side.

    1. Hi Barb – I would encourage you not to make such a clear distinction between the documentary and the creative. Even in a documentary setting, we make choices about how to best express what’s going on, what we’re seeing – perhaps not one single person but a relationship or a dynamic, an idea that the whole expresses (or can express) when we get intentional and creative about point of view and what we exclude and light and lines, choice of moment…Ultimately creativity isn’t about being whacky, or different or even “artisitc”, it’s about problem solving. You’ve got this, but it’s a discovery. Enjoy the process. 🙂

  95. Thank you David for another informative and inspiring video.
    Your own enthusiasm, warmth and ability to open creative doors for aspiring photographers, myself included, are all in this latest video.
    Also thanks for expanding my horizons with your books and videos, which are not just about the making of photographs.

    1. Thanks Martin. I like that you see my work being about more than photography. I see photography as a metaphor for life and being more alive and present in this world, owning our choices, and anticipating how those choices might affect ourselves and others. And also it’s about pictures. 🙂

  96. Great video and always great tips. You make us all think and that’s awesome!
    I like to capture simplicity and this can create a calm emotion, not always though ;). If I can capture a feeling of Zen, I am very pleased.

    1. Thanks, Kristy. Id be curious to know, on those occasions you do capture a feeling of Zen, how does it happen? What’s present in either you or the image that makes it so? If you can identify this, even a hint of it, you’re closer to knowing how to do it more often.

  97. Hi David

    Great simple tips that are a fabulous foundation for creative composition. Isn’t there also a relationship between Point 1 and Point 2?

    I’m looking forward to the next video. Seeing is at the heart of creating great photos and is central to the way I work!

    Keep ’em coming


    1. Thank you, Lee. Absolutely there’s a relationship between #1 and #2. But then all this stuff is intertwined and related, splitting them out from each other is helpful for teaching. In real life it’s all part of the whole.

  98. Some of the things that make a photograph captivating to me are (in no particular order):
    ~ people showing emotion
    ~ contrast (hot/cold colors, big/small)
    ~ dramatic lines (usually diagonals)
    ~ unexpected juxtapositions
    ~ dogs (big, small, curly, hairless, running, sitting still ~ it doesn’t matter)


    1. Right one, Scott. A lot of photographers couldn’t identify these things for themselves. You’re much better equipped, knowing this stuff, to make the kinds of images that really do it for you, and for others. The magic will be in how you combine these and what you do with them!

    2. Hi David, great video! Right now my project is shooting still life flowers inspired by an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe‘s work at a botanical garden in Florida when I was there for the winter. Today I shot a Stargazer Lilly that I took off the big stem. What I liked was the color, lines and texture of the flower. I experiment with lighting and background. I’m still at the stage if being exploratory with those things. But in a few days I’m flying to Colorado to visit family and will be in the mountains shooting landscapes. I want to remember to soak it in and move around before I plant the tripod!

  99. David, Thanks for the informative video. I’m a total newcomer; still coming to grips with my camera – it’s my retirement hobby and I’m collecting books along the way for inspiration. I love black and white. I’m a minimalist who likes abstraction. I’m not even sure I can explain that, but I like ‘bits of things’ rather than a whole. The journey begins……

    1. And what a journey it is, Isabel! Keep your eyes open for the next two videos, I think this is all going to be especially helpful to you. I often think how much further ahead I’d have been earlier on in my journey if I had explored these ideas and not just how to work the camera (also important, thought it’s probably best we learn them together). I’m glad you’re here!

  100. Thanks David – I found this very useful and informamative. I love light and the various ways it is used. I listen to my emotions when I look at images. If they move any of my senses then the photographer in my opinion has done what he intended.

    1. Yes! For me too. Now the trick is getting this kind of dynamic into the images! 🙂

  101. I completely agree with all three of your points. I do custom printing for photographers, and very often I find things in an image that are distractions from the real image. these need either cropping, or to be removed be editing or at least toned down, Your comment about put down the latest catalog or ad, and look at books of great images is something I have said for years. In my office I have about 1,000 photography books that I allow any customer to look at or borrow. (I have all of yours) maybe 1 customer in 20 will actually look at them. If I had sales catalogs, they would be looked at all the time.
    I enjoy your commentary and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks, Bob. If I could get more people to look at books of photographs I’d be a happy man. I’d open a photo bookshop for the love of it, but sadly I’d go bankrupt for lack of interest (and I’d keep taking my own stock!)…

  102. Hi David

    Your video was excellent I will look forward to your next one, and yes composition is Important I liked the way you explained it.
    I am into landscape photography at the moment and I struggle with getting the exposure correctly have been following tutorials
    of a French photographer Serge Rameli, I will look forward to your next video.

    1. What grabs my attention in a photograph is the use of light, the colour, the strength, the direction of the light.

  103. Good points David, especially tip number 3. That’s one area I will spend a lot more time in.

    Thanks for the good advice

  104. Hi David!

    One thing that definitely struck a chord with me was the comment you made above: “Some people wait far too long, they get really good at camera-using and never much better at picture-making.”

    In the last year, I have lost my confidence and ambition to get out and create images. I now realize that I’ve been just taking pictures, but not creating images that speak to me and eventually the viewer.

    The three things you mention here are going to help me create images rather than just take pictures. I’m now much more inspired to move forward! Also, I find that I work much more effectively and patiently when I go out by myself to create. I can take the time I need to compose, feel the scene and what I’m feeling about it and be on my own schedule.

    Thanks for your constant inspiration and guidance…

    Jean 🙂

  105. Excellent material. I believe composition is the most undertaught and underused “tool” in photography. I teach composition at every opportunity and this video is an excellent starting point for any photographer. I also believe that composition is not a tool or a thing but a dynamic part of the psyche and the unique visual language of every photographer. All human beings see things differently. At any given moment, what one person sees in a particular subject will be both quantitatively and qualitatively different from what every other person sees. Also, I believe that composition is a personal skill that involves visual, cultural, and mental or psychological factors that are tied to both nature and nurture. All of this and more, are reasons that I enjoy your photos and your teachings. Thank you, David.

    1. Hello David,

      Thank you for the mini-class intro and your service to the photographic community. I have been reading, The Soul of the Camera” and have adopted your philosophy of the photographic arts, thank you. I have held a camera off/on for over 40 years, and now realizing what it means to create art with a camera. At first it was about the picturing “taking”, now it is about the picture “giving” from my soul. Was I find interesting is the “golden time of day,” morning sunrise and evening sunset. That amber glow grabs my attention every time I see it. The way it reflects off of the terrain, the trees, buildings, etc. just captivates me.

  106. Hi David,
    One of the things that I most enjoy about your videos and your posts is that you seem to discuss everything that I am struggling with, and your solutions actually make sense. In a way that I will remember them. I always go back to your site everytime I struggle, get down on myself, am not as good as those other photographers, etc. I thank you for your words and encouragement. They are sincere and genuine in a world of–like you said–platitudes.

    For me a strong photograph is simple, I am always drawn to images that have a single theme to them. If the theme is illustrated in layers, even better. I like images that are clear about what is happening, basically everything you mention in your video. Sometimes though, I look at some famous and established photographs and wonder why they are considered so great. Does that happen to you? Or do I have to just stare at it until I get it?

    1. Hi Carolyne – Yeah, that happens to me too. It’s all subjective and there are plenty of images that just don’t do it for me. But it’s important to remember that we can learn from them all, even if what we learn is that certain images don’t resonate with us. And it’s helpful to remember that many images were great years ago but have been surpassed now as this young craft has evolved. I love that you’ve given this such thought!

  107. I like when you talk about emotions and energy about photographies, i understand you.
    Thank you David

    1. Captivating images are ones that stir my soul, cause my mind to imagine, to daydream, to think about an experience. Ones that open my heart to new feelings and possibilities, passionately inspiring me to a more fuller, deeper, and more rewarding life.

      1. I like less is more photos of specific parts of an animal be it an up turned tail on a leopard or the tongue of a cow up its nose with the snot dripping down

  108. Hi David,

    These days, what appeals to me is images that convey a sense of mystery and, therefore, keep my attention longer. For instance, I am attracted to impressionist images, long exposure or multiple exposures images, abstract images, landscape with fog in the background and low keys portraits.

  109. Great words. I was told by my beginner course instructor that sometimes it’s about what you leave out of a photograph. I’ve tried to keep that in mind. I like your words here. And I will definitely look at photos as you say to help me improve! Thank you

    1. Absolutely, Deb. Photography has been called “the art of exclusion” and while it can be hard to choose what to include in the frame and how, deciding what to leave out can be an excellent first step.

  110. Hi David,

    I have become more aware of the power of composition. At times making choices to express what I feel is quite simple while at other times I struggle with them as none of the options are really satisfying. I look forward to you next videos. Thanks for all your usefull advices.


  111. Thank you David. Always helpful . Will try with renewed effort to cut out some of the clutter ( interesting clutter but not helpful for the photo). And look at more of other photographers ‘ books. There’s too much to look at on social media.

    1. I totally agree, Karen – social media can be a flood that’s impossible to navigate. I prefer books. The experience is much different, and I find I learn better because I’m more focused. I also remember the work I see in a book, where online work tends to slip from my brain as quickly as it enters.

  112. I am reading your book “The Visual Toolbox” which has already impacted on the way I photograph. Equally Freeman’s book “The Photographer’s Eye” which you referred to in another video has also alerted me to doing things differently. I have two images which I would like to hear your comments. Would this be possible?

    1. Thanks Willem. Right now I’m not offering mentoring or critiques, my schedule is just too full. But if you tag me on social for these images and I have a moment I’d be happy to look at them.

  113. I am intrigued at images that require the viewer to complete the image in their minds or develop a sense of mystery. Compositions that do not show the entire subject, utilize dark shadows and create potentially a different meaning for various viewers. I’ve experimented with this and clearly I have years of practice ahead of me…lol.

    Images by Saul Leiter and Alex Webb come to mind.

  114. Hi David
    As usual really good tips. For me, finding the heart of the image is the most important thing for me. However, it can be emphasized, by adding more elements as you also describe.
    You talk about leaving everything not contributing or supporting the image out. Most photographers would probably either crop in Lightroom, or spend (sometimes valuable time) moving around the “distractions”.

    **A tip from me is to investigate the colors and light of the scene beforehand. It could be that distractions could be neutralized by going black & white in Lightroom, bringing back punchy colors that could distract the story and heart of the image. Use this as an alternative to cropping or recomposing.

    In general going black & white for me always gives a new perspective of an image – it reduces the overall complexity, bringing out the heart and soul of the image even more.

    Looking forward to the next video.

    1. The heart of the image! Yes! My next book (coming out in March) is called the Heart of the Photograph. I love that we’re on the same page!

  115. Always interesting and enlightening David, thank you.
    For me it’s photographs that contain minimal elements, i.e. simple but yet grab my interest and hold it. Photographs that make me feel something and want to come back and revisit them. Photographs that get better every time I see them. Clearly composition carries the power to accomplish this, however, color or black and white choices are also critical.

    1. I’m a minimal guy too, but then I look at the work of people like Alex Webb and I’m in awe at how he achieves such harmony in such chaos!

  116. Good advice. Thank you for the great idea about looking for the heart in the image.

  117. Thank you David, always relevant.
    For me the pictorial appearance if an image means nothing – even the very best ‘Camera Club’ images are of no interest. Only the Content or Subject matters (if that makes sense!)

    1. Makes perfect sense, though I suspect it’s not only the content/subject matter but how that content/subject matter is expressed and the choices that either allow that or prevent it.

  118. I believe my ability to study photographs and recognize the good (or weak) compositional elements has improved significantly in recent years. However, my challenge is seeing those elements in my field of view when I’m out taking photos and all the visual noise/clutter gets in the way. Sort of like spotting ET on the shelf with the stuffed animals.

    1. I have found a couple things helpful here, Hugh. The first is slowing down and taking more time. It takes time to see ET on the shelf, to recognize him. The other thing that’s helped is making sketch images, just taking the crappy first shots and looking at the image itself, evaluating it, and trying again, making different choices. Sometimes we see in 2 dimensions what we miss in 3.

      1. Thank you for your comments.
        In thinking about it, most of my images are one-offs – I seldom take multiples of the same subject from different angles, perspectives, etc. Kind of presumptuous of me to think my first (only) shot is going to be a keeper. I seem to be accumulating snapshots instead of making photographs. I’ve read enough (virtually all of your books plus many other authors) that I should know better. Thanks for the gentle kick in the pants.
        Looking forward to the next videos.

  119. Encouraging words as always, I particularly like your advice to study the photographs of the masters,
    rather like spending time with an art work it is time well spent. Thank you David, look forward to next video.

    1. Thank you, Jean. I’m glad this helps. I spend time most days looking at the work of masters and just absorbing them. The more I look, the more I see and learn.

  120. Newbe photographer here. Thanks for sharing ideas on how to make my photos better. Traveling a bit there is so much
    to see and capture – but taking time to ‘frame’ the shot for a purpose is a new idea.

    1. Hi Geri. We all start new at some point but if you learn to consider your purpose early it will serve you well as your craft gets better. Some people wait far too long, they get really good at camera-using and never much better at picture-making.

  121. In travel photography, I don’t want to see a picture that tells me so-and-so was “there”; I want one that makes me want to be “there”.

    1. Me too, Lawrence. Have you thought about what the means more specifically? In other words, the photographs that make you feel like you’re there – what kinds of things accomplish that for you? The more you know that the more easily you can create it in your own work.

  122. David,
    This is a very thoughtful video—good production values, engrossing script, personable presentation. Thank you for pointing us back into books and galleries. I am a mid-level photographer just now getting juried into shows—seven this year. Going to these shows and deeply looking at the “competition,” I see a lot of really good photographs. Like me, they are at mid-level, just a cut or two above the crowd. My question to myself is: What will it take to make it all the way to “awesome”?

    I shoot with iPhone and Moment lenses and firmly believe I don’t need a Nikon to become great; my composition needs to get better—I think it’s good, but nonetheless, it’s not good enough. This is a profound topic that I intend to take as deep as I can.

    Thanks again,

    1. HI Sandy. Thanks for the kind words. Your question is a good one, and I think it’s an exciting exploration. Ultimately it’s going to be a discovery of what is really you. As you rightly pointed out, it’s not the camera. The iPhone will do the work just fine. It’s you – your vision, your voice, and your exploration of the elements and decisions that make images compelling. I love your willingness to take this deeper!

    2. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and knowledge on this most important subject!!! Composition is everything for me.. of course other factors included..! For me, simplicity of the image and it’s compelling story or emotion or energy is what works for me.. and you have so well explained that for us….!!

      I look forward to your upcoming videos too, as I loved those discussion points!

      Thanks once again for sharing your experience and knowledge with us 🙏

      Namrata Vedi

      1. You’re welcome. Composition is so overlooked – it’s nice to see others with an enthusiastic understanding of its importance in making images that connect. 🙂

  123. I’ve become more interested in making more simple, graphic photographs. I’ve realized that many of my photos are crowed and lack clarity of purpose. I’m working on that.

    1. It takes time, Jack. Just knowing what you desire in your compositions is a needed step forward for all of us.

    1. I do too. Can I throw the ball back in your court and ask what kind of elements or decisions you would consider important to making images that “express a lot”? The more you recognize those things, the easier it will be to find them, play with them, and incorporate them.

  124. Well … seems that you always make me think 🙂

    I think that the challenge is that – composition, well they are “trivial”. We have all heard about it since forever. But the mechanisms of these compositions – they are not at the top of my mind and these mechanisms are not tought along with compositions.
    So to come from the “trivial” compositions “rules” and the silly discussions about breaking the rules (empty discissions really) – to come from this stage and to actually use compositions as tools, mechanisms, part of the visual language – that is my challenge … simple as that 🙂

    1. Quantity is not quality. Some photographers feel they need to take several hundred photos or the trip is a waste of time. My problem is I know how the camera works but I don’t take the time to compose a quality photograph. I liked your photo of the person in the spotlight. Several things come to mind. First the time of day limits the spotlight. Next is where is this and how did you stumble upon this location? How long did you stake out this location? Is this a frequently traveled location? To have a person in that spot at that time is either pure luck or it is staged. This is still a great photograph. Looking forward to the next two segments!

      1. This is the benefit of spending time in a place, Jim. The more you know it the more you start to see things like that spotlight, which was in a busy spot near a market in Venice. There were a lot of people crossing that spot, so I just waited for the right one. Pure luck combined with patience and knowing if the right moment didn’t come that day I could return over and over, as I will on future trips, just to see if better moments arrive. It’s all about the time. Time to perceive, to experiment, to come back later and try again.

  125. I tend to photograph on the opposite end of the simplicity spectrum. I try to capture emotions in order to provoke a response. Some are from sporting events while others attempt to breathe life into inanimate objects. IMHO, your video captures the important essence of composition…I never though about it like you explain.

  126. David,
    Useful and inspiring information. I think that your suggestion to study photographs in depth is important. I need to have more courage in shooting… but am not patient, competent, or confident enough to get there. This video gives me some stepping stones to practice and to review! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome, Lynda. Keep at it, the competence and confidence comes. The patience, on the other hand, I think that’s just chosen. I’m not a patience person but I can wait and watch and it’s been really helpful to understand that patience is something I do, not something I am.

  127. I like an image that has emotional impact, that shows feelings.

    I perceive you as a photographic philosopher.

  128. Great advice David! I enjoy your emails, videos, and books immensely.

    For #3- Who are some of the masters you suggest studying (or photographs) and why? Thanks!

    1. Hi Joe – It depends what you’re into.You can learn from almost anyone, and those influences will change as you grow. Right now I’m in love with Alex Webb, Vineet Vorha, Ragu Rai, Fan Ho, Nick Turpin, Saul Leiter, Bruce Davidson – those are all favourites but they do reflect my own biases and preferences.

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