What Makes A Photo Work?

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Is This A Stronger Composition?

Accident at the Gallery by Peter H.

Peter H. seems to have a brave face, sending in his image for me to 'tear apart and be critical'. Thanks Peter!

What I like about this image is that it follows a concept. Of course, as the viewer, I don't really know if the concept came before the photo or the other way around, but it certainly appears that Peter has had a 'Daliesque' idea (as he describes it) and followed it through. The title also helps me as a judge to understand the photographer's purpose, but in many photo competitions, titles are not used.

This is a great photo, just as it is. Peter has picked a style and executed it very well. I love the detail he has gone to (note the broken hanging wire up the top left) and the viewer can easily read the two stories. Well, I assume there are two stories, but I may be wrong.

So what are my suggestions? When we start with a blank canvas, I think we have an opportunity to create a really strong composition. In this image, there is some great use of space - I like what I see. But if my intention were to put a message across, why are there two stories? Would the photo be better with just one story? Should Peter have made two images?

The small edits I have quickly made do two things. First, I split the photo into two stories. I think simple is better. Peter may continue to hold his view that he wants both stories included - fair enough.

The second is I have made the paintings larger so we can more easily see what's happening (above), or changed the shape (the car painting below) so the elements fit together - so they relate to each other more easily.

I'm not suggesting these are the final compositions, rather the purpose is to suggest that when we're creating composite images where we can place our subjects anywhere and in any ratio within the frame, give it plenty of thought. I like Peter's composition - it is well balanced. But if his main intention is to communicate his story, I wonder whether there's a stronger composition still?

Check out our e-book on How To Win Photo Competitions - you can find it here.

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