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.


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