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Photography Composition Techniques: Elements Of Design – Shape & Form

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Design – Shape & Form

When I say Shape, what comes to your mind first? May be a Triangle, Circle, Square, or something similar…isn’t it? We learnt it in our schools. We remember them immediately because they are all primary shapes.

When you started drawing as a kid you would have mostly started drawing outlines, isn’t it? Outlines are nothing but shapes. We all drew outlines of mom, dad, cats, dogs, house, river, etc. Shapes define the outline for an object or a subject.

Form is a three-dimensional representation of the Shape. There will be no Form without a Shape. Similarly there will be no Shape without Lines.

If you have missed my previous articles about Lines here they are:

Everything in nature has some kind of a shape and form to them with which we are able to recognize and distinguish one from the other.

Shape & Form

Almost everything in nature has form, isn’t it? But forms can be boring after some time because we see them often. How about showing just the shape but not the form? We don’t often see beyond colors and details. Showing those beautiful shapes of recognizable subjects yields more interesting photographs. That’s a different way of attracting viewers in to our photographs.

Take a look at how you can create photographs that will have different impact on the viewer depending on whether you have used Shapes or Form.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap.

While it is easier to make a photograph where form plays an important role, it is not so easy while photographing a Silhouette to show the shape of a subject.

If you want the Silhouette to work, you need to get well defined shape of the subject. As you can see in both these photographs of Indian Peafowl have the shapes neatly defined that makes it easier to recognize the bird.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap. Silhouette of Indian Peafowl in Flight. Birds in Flight.

Shape does matter

Look at this photograph of an Indian Peafowl against the Sun disk of a rising Sun. The shape of the Indian Peafowl in not well defined which ruins the whole photograph despite the fact that everything else is fantastic.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap. Silhouette of an Indian Peafowl.

The below photograph is taken just after few minutes with well-defined shape of the Indian peafowl.  See how the whole impact of the photograph changes due to minor difference.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap. Silhouette of an Indian Peafowl.

Form Vs Shape

Sometimes the form doesn’t work out really well. Take a look at the following photograph taken on a cloudy day.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap. Art in Nature.

Did you like this photograph? I don’t think you do. Though the pose of the bird and the bald tree are fantastic, the background and the light are very bad.

How about creating something more artistic from this photograph? The pose of the peafowl and the graphical structure of the tree make for a beautiful black and white photograph.

Here is the black and white version of the photograph.

Photography Composition Techniques: Elements of Visual Design. Shape and Form. Indian Peafowl portrait. Nature, Wildlife, Bird and Landscape Photography by Prathap. Indian Peafowl. Art in Nature.

I love the black and white photograph for its strong graphical lines and the shape. And you?

Conclusion

Shapes and Forms are very important design elements in photography. Try pushing your boundaries to look for strong shapes that can make for some interesting and hopefully compelling photographs.

Shapes open up a whole new possibility for you in creating something new and also help you to see beyond what is apparent. When you include photographs of strong shape in your portfolio it serves to break the monotony and adds interest to the viewer.

I think it is evident in my portfolio website Prathap Photography.

Let me know your thoughts and views on this topic in comment. Shares and comments are much appreciated.

Prathap

Prathap is a passionate nature photographer and founder of Nature Photography Simplified blog. He aims to simplify every photography concept to help beginners and amateur photographers. His FREE eBook "Bird Photography – 10 Mistakes and Solutions" has been instrumental in helping thousands of bird photographers. Download it right now to jumpstart your bird photography.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Very helpful post, Prathap. I like your examples of good and not so good shots to illustrate. The last one with the peacock in the dead tree gave me some great ideas.

    1. Thank you Chris. I think the last photograph in fact was an after thought while I was writing this article. It was a kind of a aha! moment for me too 🙂

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