This exercise required three already-taken images that I took from my portfolio to demonstrate the many ways you can crop a photograph. I have chosen the following images: a plastic garden chair, a chameleon and a derelict shed. All of the images were taken with a Nikon D300 with a variety of lenses.

Set 1 – Garden Chair

I have cropped this image in such a way that the chair was no longer placed centrally in the frame. I have taken away the left part of the image, some of the grass and the top and tried to frame the chair with the bush above. Regardless of the fact that I have only cropped it a little, it has totally changed the image resulting in a more concentrated photograph. I do still prefer the original because it seems to have a little more of a gritty energy and interest as well as a diversity in textures and colours from the parts that were cropped.



Set 2 – Chameleon

There is a lot of empty space in this image which I think accentuates the depth of field. I have tried to crop the picture so that the chameleon is still in the right-hand side of the frame, I know technically this is unbalanced but it works very well in the original but not so well in the cropped version. Again, cropping this image has put more of an emphasis on the subject which is a natural when zooming in – this is the nature of filling the frame.








Set 3 – Derelict Shed in Winter


I think that a square, tighter crop suits this image better than the original, although, I should have retained the whole tree on the left-hand side. With a tighter crop, the image seems to have a more intense feel to it and the original portrays desolation,

accentuating the harsh climate.











This exercise has made me consider revising all of the photographs in my portfolio to see if I can improve them

with a different crop. It has also taught me to try a few different crops in my future images to ensure that I choose the best one, normally the first crop I do is the one I stick with but I think that this habit has now been abolished.

Vertical and horizontal frames

Vertical and horizontal frames

I have used a wide variety of subjects for this exercise to demonstrate that with a little thought and time you could frame most subjects in vertical and horizontal format. The exercise required forty photographs of twenty subjects shot twice; one vertically framed and one horizontally framed. Each set of two images starts with the horizontal orientation and finishes with the vertical. I tried to show some diversity in subject matter to flexibly illustrate the objective.

Set 1 – Forest

Both images in this set work well with a horizontal and a vertical frame. The horizontal frame puts an emphasis on the depth of the forest while the second on the height of the trees.

Set 2 – Obelisk

The horizontal frame works best in this set; however, the sky has gained some prominence in the vertical frame adding drama and scale to the image.


Set 3 – Door

I can’t decide which image works the best in this set; I’m swinging more towards the horizontal frame because the tree adds a little more interest than the vertical frame. There is more emphasis on the subject in the vertical frame because it is isolated.

Set 4 – Vintage Cameras

The horizontal frame in this image looks a little generic for me but is technically framed better. There is a lot of empty space in the vertically framed image but I can’t decide if this works better or not. I suppose it can depend on what the image is used for.

Set 5 – City Park

The vertical frame in this set works the best because it enhances the lead-in lines and adds foreground interest and a sense of scale to the image.

 Set 6 – Blossom Tree

The isolation of the tree by shooting it in a vertical frame has worked very well; I think that the empty space in the horizontal image is unnecessary and unattractive.

Set 7 – Golf Green

The background on this set is very simple so the subject looks better shot with a vertical frame due to the nature of its shape. The flag is quite small so needs a little weight to stand out.


Set 8 – Cactus and Lentils

I like both of these images for the same reasons as ‘Vintage Cameras’, I think it is the plain white background. Technically the vertical frame is totally unbalanced but for some reason, I think it works well.

Set 9 – Japanese AshI deliberately chose a subject that would be difficult to analyse because of its simplicity. The vertical frame has more depth so in my opinion is the better of the two.

Set 10 – Elegance

Technically, the horizontal version of this set should work better because it complies with the ‘rule-of-thirds’, however, despite the fact that in the vertical frame the subject is placed dead centre, I think it works a lot better and the smoke trails perfectly to the top right corner of the image.

Set 11 – BridgeProminence is added to the bridge in the vertical frame due to the character of its shape, there is too much dead space in the horizontal version.

Set 12 – War Monument

There is a better sense of scale in the horizontal version of this set, though, I think this is down to the focal length and not the framing as much, generally, I think that the horizontal frame works better.

Set 13 – Pond

This one is difficult purely because I think that it is a terrible photograph due to poor subject choice, however, I would probably choose the vertical frame.


Set 14 – Herbs and Flowers growing from Tennis Ball and Seashell

Conversely to the other studio shots, I think that the horizontal frame works better, perhaps because of the details and the colours. I think an interesting subject like this, benefits from a tighter frame.


Set 15 – Wood, Stone and Iron

I think that the vertical frame looks the best in this set because it is virtually split up into three equal parts which, as we know already, makes an interesting photograph. Everything in the horizontal frame seems to be fighting for attention.


Set 16 – Gardens

The vertical representation of this image adds more depth and puts more stress on the flowers which are the focal point of the image while the horizontal version adds a broader sense of scale.

Set 17 – Mixer

The horizontal frame in this simple set looks to have a little too much empty space, although, this does work quite well. After tightening the frame and switching to a vertical orientation we can see that it looks clearer and more balanced.


Set 18 – Iron Wheelbarrow

The horizontal picture in this set looks a little generic, a bit like a snap-shot, whereas changing to vertical orientation has forced me to place something in the foreground to add some interest thus resulting in a better image.


Set 19 – Tower Block

The horizontal version of this tower block puts more focus on the trees, whereas, the vertical version shifts that focus onto the tower block. The building looks further away in the vertical frame because all of the ground is included in the foreground of the shot adding a sense of distance.

Set 20 – ‘Drive Safely’

I think shooting this scene in vertical orientation has elevated the road from the image and has given the photograph more of a sense of direction with good lead-in lines. The horizontal version seems to lay flat in comparison.



This exercise has taught me to exhaust all possible scenarios when framing an image, I feel that if you take a photograph in vertical orientation, even if you think it won’t work, it forces you to be a little more creative by adding foreground interest or incorporating something else into the frame; this has added depth to some of my images that, otherwise, would be flat.

Positioning the horizon

Positioning the horizon


For this exercise I was asked to take six photographs to exhibit how important the positioning of the horizon is when composing an image. I chose a cityscape which I shot from Nottingham castle overlooking the city. This was my subject of choice because of the relatively interesting foreground and the clear horizon. All of the following images were taken with a shutter speed of 1/125s, an aperture of f/10, an ISO of 100 and an 18mm focal length; I also used a graduated neutral density filter to keep the sky and the land as evenly exposed as possible. I have numbered the images 1 – 6 starting with the lowest horizon first.


Image 1

With the horizon positioned at the very lower part of the frame, this image lacks any distinction, this is also aided by the deficiency of interest in the sky


Image 2

This image is better than the previous; however, the subject matter in the foreground is cut off and there is still too much emphasis on the sky.


Image 3

Perhaps if the horizon was placed slightly lower in this image it would work better as it would adhere to the ‘rule-of-thirds’. I think that the horizon is too central and thus stagnant.


Image 4

I like this image and the next image the best, although for different reasons. I can’t really decide which one prevails in terms of technique and aesthetics. This photograph works well because, again, it closely follows the ‘rule-of-thirds’. There is enough foreground interest to provide a satisfactory image.


Image 5

I think the reason that I like this image is because of the fact that it has three planes: the foreground, the mid-ground and the sky; this adds depth. The horizons in the previous images were placed in such a way that the foreground was not in the frame, I think this is one of the reasons that the previous images lacked interest.


Image 6

This image also includes the three planes but the positioning of the horizon has made this image less appealing, it is not totally uninteresting but I think that some more sky would have added some drama.



I think that because this exercise required a simple and only relatively interesting scene, this method can be practised in its purist form. If the scene would have had more compositional elements from which to compose the photograph, perhaps it would have told a different story. This exercise has definitely helped me to consider my options when shooting simple landscapes.

Focal lengths and different viewpoints

Focal lengths and different viewpoints


There are two sets of two images for this exercise to demonstrate the difference in perspectives when shooting a variety of focal lengths filling the frame with the subject. The first set of images are of the Male Satyr statue in the gardens of Newstead Abbey, Nottingham; the second of a weathered, crumbled pillar. I chose these subjects as they have straight sides and exhibit the character of converging lines used at different focal lengths from a different viewpoint.

Male Satyr

The image on the left was taken at a very short distance from the subject, perhaps two feet; the one on the right was taken from a distance that took perhaps a minute or so to walk. You can clearly see the difference in perspective. The pillar on which the satyr is standing appears to be larger in the first than that of the second and in complete contrast, the satyr himself appears to be smaller. Subjects appear closer than they seem the closer they are to the lens. Objects that appear further away are a result of ‘dwindling size perspective’. There appears to be much more distance between the satyr and the tree in the image on the left and the same tree in the right image looks as though it is right next to the satyr attaining  a two dimensional plane. The latter image is a more accurate rendition of the subjects form and size whereas the former is more suggestive of size, along with power and dominance. The light is also very different in these images; the satyr in the first image looks a little dark compared to the one on the right and the shadows fall in different places despite the fact that they were shot within a couple of minutes of each other.

Weathered Pillar

The same things apply to this image, although, there is much more of an obvious difference between the backgrounds on this image; it looks almost as if this image has been subject to ‘high dynamic range’ (an editing process of extracting a subject from a photograph and placing it on a different background to achieve a high contrast scene).  This set best demonstrates the objective of this exercise because the difference is much greater in comparison than that of the first set.

Focal lengths

Focal lengths – for cameras with variable focal lengths

(with a zoom or interchangeable lens)


For this exercise I was asked to take a series of images to demonstrate the effects of changing focal lengths and framing different parts of a scene successfully. I chose a landscape of rape-seed and freshly ploughed fields with a farmhouse in the distance. I shot six images with focal lengths ranging from 29mm – 300mm using Nikkor lenses and a Nikon D300.

I chose this scene because of the bright colours, the contrast and the variety of textures that could be used in framing the following images.

Image 1

I started with a vertically framed image shot at 29mm using the farmhouse as the subject and good strong lead-in lines from the edges of the field and the plough lines. The texture from the ploughed field adds some foreground interest and helps to balance the picture.

Image 2

The next image was shot at horizontal orientation with a focal length of 60mm and has included some of the far right of the landscape. I tried to include this part of the scene in the image as I thought the telephone wires would provide good lead-in lines to the subject in the absence of the rape-seed field on the left. Everything appears slightly closer in this image resulting in a flatter form. Over-all, the image is not composed as well as ‘Image 1’.

Image 3

I chose an 82mm focal length, decided to go back to the left a little and bring the rape-seed back in to include some colour and a better composition – the tree to the left has also helped to do this. The subject in each image appears much closer with every shot.

Image 4

Another horizontally orientated image shot at 116mm. You can really start to see some detail in the brickwork and the roof on the farmhouse and the building in the background has become clearer. Less of the sky is included in this image to create more visible plains, therefore, more depth.

Image 5

At 200mm, I decided to change the orientation to vertical to make the composition healthier. The dominant subject has been the farmhouse throughout but now the steel building in the background is starting to play an important role as it slowly starts creeping towards the farmhouse – this is a neat little trick performed by the lens when using larger focal lengths. The horizon is starting to look a little hazy and everything is starting to look very flat and compressed.


Image 6

This final image was shot at 300mm using the rule-of-thirds as a guideline to achieve a better composition. With this in mind, I eradicated the farmhouse which I believe was a critical error. The exercise objective would have been better demonstrated with the use of the farmhouse as the compression would have been slightly more apparent. You can clearly see the difference between ‘Image 1’ and this image in that it is much more compressed – every plain appears to be quite close and the depth-of-field seems to have become much broader although the aperture has remained the same.



The more you zoom in, the closer an object appears. That’s the obvious dealt with! More importantly, things that are further away appear closer, not only to the camera, but also to the subject as larger focal lengths compress plains. The term wide-angle applies to a focal length that is wider than the human eye (approximately 50mm) which means something has to give in order to get the entire scene in. If you look at a fish-eye lens as the other extreme, everything looks convex, dragging the edges of the image in to the centre. This makes everything look further away except the subject which looks like it is right in front of the camera when it is not.

This aside, I found myself really trying to think about the composition of the scene as I did not have much in the way of subject matter or important compositional elements, this has forced me to make important compositional elements from what is provided. I have learned that often you can achieve many photographs from the same scene and to take my time and take everything that I can from the subject matter.

A sequence of composition

A sequence of composition

I chose two buskers on the streets of Nottingham city centre for this exercise. I found shooting this exercise quite difficult because of the strong contrast of light and shadow from the harsh sunlight. There are twenty-seven images numbered accordingly in the order that I shot them. This exercise is to demonstrate how we best assess a scene and its subject matter in order to achieve a good composition or to tell a story.

I used a Nikon D300 with a Nikkor 18-200mm lens and an achromatic 85mm f/1.8 lens

Image 1

 Naturally the first image had to be a wide-angle shot of the scene when I first arrived. The subject is very small and immaterial in this composition and the exposure is okay with some burnt-out areas.

Image 2

 After zooming in a little, the subject becomes a little more obvious. There are people walking out of the shot which aids in creating an unsatisfactory composition and there are still burnt out areas from over-exposure.

Image 3

After realising that the first two shots were substandard, I endeavoured to put more emphasis on the subject. I zoomed in to a focal length of 70mm to eliminate the empty space that surrounded them. The person in the background with his earphones on lends a sense of ignorance and under-appreciation for the live music that is provided.

Image 4

I tried taking a shot in vertical orientation to see if that would work better and included the sign in the background that read “weekends just got easier”. I thought this added a relaxing feel to the image as the music was easy listening. The exposure is more even in this shot.

Image 5

I was waiting for about five minutes before someone finally came to give them some money then I captured this guy dropping five pounds on the bag. I switched back to a horizontal frame for this shot as a vertical frame would not have accommodated the subject matter, I also kept the frame quite tight.

Image 6

After taking a couple of shots I started looking for other material and thought that perhaps it’s not about the buskers. I decided to follow the man that was leaving the scene – not literally!

Image 7

I took this shot as the man fled the scene and soon realised that it almost certainly wasn’t about him. If you saw this image alone you would have no idea what the subject matter or focus is as he gets lost in the crowd. I averted my interest back to the buskers.

Image 8

I wanted to zoom in even further to try and capture some facial expressions and emotion although the buskers don’t sit right in the frame; this was down to bad balance.

Image 9

I tried focusing on the money and the bag to see if this would be the optimum shot but the image lacks depth and interest with the added annoyance of a stray foot in the top right-hand corner. I think that I exhausted most possibilities from this angle and chose to move myself for the next shot.

Image 10

Still keeping the frame quite tight, I took this shot as they were resting for a minute between songs. The composition and balance is much better in this image but it still wasn’t really what I was after.

Image 11

I noticed one of the buskers reaching for the cash in a frenzy to save it blowing away in the wind, I thought this would make an interesting shot and decided to switch to a vertical frame to capture it; unfortunately, a woman was just walking into the frame at the same time. I don’t think that the composition or the frame would have been most favourable anyway.

Image 12

I zoomed in on the action and captured one of them taking the money, unfortunately, in a bid to capture the moment; I cut one of the buskers’ faces in half with the frame.

Image 13

Zooming in even further, I captured him putting the notes in his bag, although, without the aid of this sequence, one would be unsure of what he was doing. I think the composition in this image is acceptable and it is well balanced.

Image 14

This image is well composed but too simple; I was looking for something less obvious and more subjective.

Image 15

I zoomed out to bag the generic shot and see if that worked well.

Image 16

I then tried zooming right in on their faces whilst they were in the rhythm to capture some passion and satisfaction but, again, it wasn’t really what I was looking for. The tight frame and good composition makes this image appealing.

Image 17

This is a good shot, well balanced with a good composition. I kept the frame tight to divert the viewer’s eyes to the guitar. It is well lit with a warm hue which adds a sense of happiness and contentment.

Image 18

I tried the same approach as the previous image with the other busker to see which one worked best, I think that they are both just as good but each one portrays something different. It just goes to show how important the subject is. This image is a little colder than the previous because of the shadow and the busker is obviously older and more life experienced than the other. You can’t help but think that those eyes have seen some things.

Image 19

I moved around to try a different angle and get a shot of them together in a tight frame using a large aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field. This image is well composed and has depth.

Image 20

I tried the shot of the bag again but from a different angle and tried to incorporate the amplifier in it in an effort to add some depth. Just as I shot the frame, a woman reached down to take some change.

Image 21

I switched from my Nikkor 18-200mm lens to the achromatic lens to achieve a shallow depth of field and isolating the subject. The image is slightly over-exposed but captures the moment well.

Image 22

I then moved to a different position and tried to get some shots from behind them, seeing what they see. The composition in this shot is not great and it is quite unbalanced.

Image 23

I zoomed in for a tighter frame to try and balance the photograph better and give a better composition. This does work better but it still wasn’t what I was looking for.

Image 24

A woman approached the buskers, I thought this would be a good opportunity to capture some interaction; however, the image seems quite emotionless.

Image 25

This is a better image in terms of emotion captured but lacks what the previous image has in terms of composition and balance.

Image 26

This photograph is quite well balanced and the composition is satisfactory, I like the humorous quality that this image has.

Image 27

I wanted to look for something more subtle and suggestive so I took a shot of one of the buskers’ hats that was sitting on top of a bag. This is my favourite shot because it tells a story. The amplifier and the buskers’ legs in the background add interest to the image. This is my optimum shot; it is well composed and balanced with emotion, depth and interest.



Much like the focal lengths exercise, this has taught me to look for the smaller things in the scene and to assess the scene properly from all angles. It has also taught me never to rush shots and to consider every possibility thoroughly.