“Composition is always frustrating and is the most difficult
aspect of photography.“ Outdoor Photographer Magazine
Writers are said to “talk” to their readers in the language of words. Photographers are said to “speak” to their viewers in the language of pictures. Both art forms use their own specialized vocabularies. The visual and emotional impact of your photography will increase dramatically when you learn to make your images “speak” through the universally understood ‘Language of Pictorial Composition’.
To be articulate and intelligible in any medium you need grammar and syntax. Otherwise your effort to communicate a thought, an idea, an emotion, will fail, whether verbal or visual. You can put one word after another saying nothing, unless you use those words within a frame-work of universal and familiar acceptance.
To easier understand the unique compositional needs of landscape photography we can contrast it with a different style of photography. Portrait photography, purposefully both more immediate and less complex than landscape work, can be equated in its fundamental structure to a simple-sentence expressing a single idea – that of a single subject of a portrait. A proper comparison to successful landscape photography, on the other hand, would require a more nuanced, multiple focal point compound sentence.
“Jim loves his camera” … is an unadorned idea expressed in a very simple sentence. From the language of words it translates best to the language of pictures as a photograph of a single subject - Jim and his camera.
“Jim loves his old SLR film camera that he bought in 1980 in his home town of Jefferson, the original capitol of the state, known for its dark deep forests and mountainous parks and as a suitable place to make landscape photographs.” This far more complex, descriptive and intriguing sentence can be translated into the Language of Pictorial Composition as a successful landscape because it has multiple focus points (subjects) that together create a more interesting and multi dimensional verbal and pictorial image.
Viewers instinctively react positively to the proven principles of the Language of Pictorial Composition even though they may not be aware of their presence in a picture. Like a secret language you will learn a new vocabulary about how to attract the eye of the viewer by making more emphatic and compelling landscape images.
Learning the Language of Pictorial Composition may be the most important step you will ever take in mastering the art of landscape photography!