Exercise Positioning a point
This exercise is experimenting with the different positions in which you can place a single point in the frame.
There are essentially three classes of position: in the middle, a little off-centre, and close to the edge. Placing a point in the centre very rarely works, because of the static nature it produces, although this is not a rule and you might justify it on the grounds of being unconventional. What was learnt about balance and proportion in Part one applies here.
There are two important relations, to do with movement and division. The sense of movement – a slight one – is created by drawing attention towards the point from thesides. The strength of this sense of movement is in proportion to the distance from
each side. The division is easier to see if you make a sketch of the position of the point, and then draw a line vertically and a line horizontally through this. The point implies a division, as in the exercise: Positioning the horizon. The idea of things being implied in composition is an important one, and you will see it at work throughout this part of the course.
Exercise Multiple points
With several points the relationships are not so predictable. A group of objects implies
a network of lines, and can also create a shape – again by implication. In still-life
photography, one of the basic skills is to be able to group objects together in such a way
that they are linked attractively, in a relationship that is active rather than obvious and
static. This is essentially a problem of placing several points.
Set up your own still-life, with a background that is unfussy but not entirely plain. Use
between six to 10 similar-sized objects, each compact in shape. You should fix the camera
firmly in one position, aimed down at the background (ideally, use a tripod). The idea
is to control the composition by rearrangement, not by changing the framing with the
Begin by placing one object; make a record of this by taking a photograph. Then add
the second, then the third, and so on; each time, take one photograph. The aim is to
produce a final grouping, which is not so obvious as to be boring (avoid regular shapes),
but which hangs together visually. The process will take some time, if you give it proper
Consider each move and the effect that each new addition has on the overall grouping. You will almost certainly have to re-adjust objects that you have already placed, and may change your mind several times. This is perfectly normal in still-life photography.
When you have finished, you will have a blow-by-blow sequence of photographs that records your decisions. For the finalphotograph draw a sketch, indicating the ‘lines’ that relate the objects, and any basic shape or shapes that they form.