Elements of Design

  • Shape - Look for squares, circles, rectangles, and triangles in both nature and man-made objects.  Other common shapes to look for include stars, flowers, hearts, crescent moons, and clouds.
  • Form - This is the three-dimensional expression of shape.  Look for cubes, pyramids, cones, and spheres.  Value helps us to differentiate between shape and form.
  • Value - The lighting in an image creates value.  Black, white, and all shades of grey combine to express value.  In black and white photography we look for detail in both the darkest and lightest parts of the image.  An image can be interesting because it has many shades of grey.  Colour images can have interesting value as well.
  • Texture - An interesting texture can make a photo really pop.  Common textures include rough, smooth, glassy, soft, rusted, prickly, bumpy, wet, cracked, dimpled, hairy, and frozen.
  • Colour - Different colours can convey various emotions.  A bit of colour in an otherwise boring photo can draw the viewer's attention.  Some photos can feature many shades of the same colour.  Some photos are interesting because of the number or vibrancy of the colours.
  • Line - We can use lines in photography to draw the viewer's eye into the picture or towards the subject.  Lines can be straight, curved, zigzag, parallel, or wandering.  Lines can also be implied, such as the direction of a gaze or a pointing finger.

Principles of Design

  • Repetition - Look for a lot of anything - bicycles, tires, flowers, people, dice, eyeglasses, candies, old cars, mailboxes, hats, frogs, dogs, etc.  Keep your eyes out for unusually large groupings.
  • Unity - This principle is all about harmony, similarity, and usually happiness.  Holding hands, looking in the same direction, everyone smiling, hugging, celebrating, wearing fancy hats.  It can also be unhappy, such as everyone crying, holding weapons, wearing black, or everything broken, abandoned, rusting, dirty.
  • Contrast - The opposite of Unity.  Things disagree with each other.  Something stands out as different.  One person is crying while others laugh, one old person with a group of children, one yellow flower in a field of red flowers, big and small, short and tall, old and new.
  • Balance - This principle is achieved when an image has a pleasing sense of equality between the two sides.  This can happen when the two sides are mirrors of one another, when something on one side is similar to what is one the other side, or when something on one side (ie - a person) is balanced by something else to look at on the other side (ie - a tree).
  • Perspective - Looking up, looking down, worm's eye view, bird's eye view, angles.  We are so used to looking at the world from the height of our eyes, gazing straight ahead.  Images can become so much more interesting when we find a different perspective.
  • Proportion - This principle is all about relative size.  We can use proportion to get more accurate information about the size of something, such as a person standing in front of an enormous tree.  Or we can use proportion into fooling the viewer, like when someone appears taller than a building because of the perspective used.