on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Visual Flow – Ian Plant and George Stocking

The Art of Composition

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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"Striving to come up with a solution to the never ending, constantly changing visual puzzle that is our universe" - George Stocking


There are literally hundreds of books about composition out there and I think I’ve browsed or own most of them (my wife would probably say all of them) and there is one thing that is fairly consistent across them all and that is a surfeit of superficial platitudes. Very rarely does a book look beyond some of the generally accepted ‘rules’ or try to dig deeper into the reasons why some compositions work and some don’t.

© George Stocking

© George Stocking

The other aspect is that most composition books are not targeted at landscape photography. Now you wouldn’t think this is a real problem but there is something special about landscape photography that makes composition such an important part. The typical landscape photograph (or painting) does not have an intrinsic narrative, unlike photojournalism, portraiture, sport, etc. The main tool a photographer has to engage with the viewer is composition. Yes there are definitely aspects of narrative through the use of animism or anthropomorphism (choosing scenes that suggest the objects have an animated spirit of some sort - e.g. the tree as a person; old man. etc.) but I think most people, especially most ‘romantic’ photographers, will agree that composition is one of the most important, if not the most important tool in a landscape photographer's arsenal. As such, the best person to ask about pure composition is a landscape photographer/artist, perhaps closely followed by a proponent of still life.

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