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Alley Cat's tips to great photography

Alison Watkins
To take this photo I stuck my hand in a trecherous razor wire fence to achive Perspective, Repetition, Depth, Rule of Thirds, and Quality of light.
Alison Watkins
The repetition of the matches is pleasing to the eye, especially in an ordely fahsion across the image.

Aliosn Watkins

Taken late at night in San Francisco and made black and white, this photo creates contrast with heavy blacks and light whites.
Follow this column for photography techniques and advice from Alison Watkins.

Chapter 3: Composition and Design

Not just any photo is an amazing one, the photographer has to think about the end product. The photographer has to set the camera (for those who use a DSLR) and decide where the subject will be in the photo.

There are certain qualities that painters and photographers have found over hundreds of years to be desirable inside a single frame. These qualities are known as composition and design. There are roughly 18 elements, depending on your source. Be sure to try to use these design elements in your photos. In this column I will go over the main composition and design elements I use and when to use them.

To many it seems obvious to put the subject in the middle of the frame, but in most cases it is the opposite. Putting the subject off to the side or near the top or bottom of the image is actually better. This is called Rule of Thirds, by imagining a tic-tac-toe board over the image and taking the photo while the subject is at one of the four points where the lines cross.

The human brain loves to see all kinds of patterns, which include repetition and symmetry. If you’re reading this I will assume you are a human. Repetition can be with many of the same item, normally in an orderly fashion. Symmetry is mostly across a line mentally drawn in the center of the image. Both sides are similar, if not exact.

Black and white photos are awesome! Definitely consider black and white as an option, but it may not be for all photos. If you are going to make a photo black and white, definitely consider the colors and mood. Should it evoke a dark feeling? Would the colors and light work with monochrome? This is called contrast, where the whites are white and the blacks are black, not just a dull or muddy gray when converting from color to grayscale. Contrast may be found in color photos as well, by having a subject that is the opposite from something else in the photo.

Perspective is one of my favorite elements. Imagine seeing the world from another viewpoint, say, from the point of view of a cat, dog, bird, or lizard. To capture this type of photo you have to experiment with where to put the camera: low, high, upside down, even inside things.

Photos that create a third dimension within the image have the quality of depth. These types of photos sometimes have something in the in the shot that is purposely out of focus, or bokeh.

There is a list that I use that contains 18 main elements of composition and design. If you are interested in learning more than the ones I’ve gone over, please feel free to download the PDF HERE.

Next week I'll be focusing on shooting sunrises and sunsets. Check back at the same Alley Cat time, same Alley Cat channel!


Alley Cat's
Photo Tips


Start shooting
Sunrises and Sunsets
Black and White
Long Exposure
Shoot in RAW
Back Button Focusing
The Challenges of      
      Sports Photography
Studio Photography
FX and DX
Street Photography
Painting with Light
Bokeh vs. Blurry
Tripods and Mounts
File Naming and

-Printing and Resolution

-Paid Gigs
-Gadgets and Gizmos
-Film Photography


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