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Photography: The Elements of a Photograph

 Over the past few weeks I have been exploring how to use my camera in order to learn how to take better photographs. There are two parts to photography, the first part is the technical part and know what the different settings on your camera do. I have learnt that the camera sees the world as an 18% grey shade and that a photographer will need to compensate for this in order to get the correct exposure. I discovered how aperture can be used to blur the background in a photograph, how to capture fast moving objects by changing the shutter speed and how to compensate for dark days by using ISO.  Finally I learnt how all these elements work together in an exposure triangle allowing you to take control of the photograph. I finally put my camera on manual mode and took some photographs.

There is much more to photography than being able to take a technically perfect photograph. Photography is an art. The art is in the way the photographer has captured the scene. Two people may take a photograph of the same object but the result will not be the same. How the object is placed in the frame is part of the art of photography. This is the composition of a photograph and there are rules that can be used to help make the photography more compelling. Before learning about these we need to know what elements make up a photograph.

The elements of a photograph



A photograph is made up of a number of key elements:

  • Foreground – This should lead you into the image and guide you to the subject.
  • Background – The background should show context or contrast but not detract from the subject
  • Subject – A photo should only have one subject
  • Whole frame – Once you have placed your subject in the frame with the right amounts of foreground and background, look at the whole image and see if it is pleasing.

The elements of a photograph


Changing the viewpoint

You can change the way the image looks by changing the viewpoint. Move your camera higher or lower, alter the amount of foreground and background and you will get a totally different picture. The art of photography is picking the view point you like the best. Don’t just point and shoot at the scene, take a few minutes to walk around and find the best viewpoint and the best lighting. Taking time before you take a photograph will improve your photography without having to have the best camera in the world.

To demonstrate how moving the camera changes the viewpoint I took a number of photographs of a diffuser bottle I have in my house. Whilst it is not the most exciting photograph in the world it does demonstrate how changing the viewpoint can alter a photograph.

Mostly subject

Bottle mostly subject

This picture shows more of the subject than foreground and background.

No foreground

Bottle - no foreground

This picture has very little foreground. I could have even removed the foreground altogether.

Mostly foreground

Bottle - mostly forground

This photograph has a very long foreground which leads you into the photograph

Mostly background

Bottle mostly background
This photograph shows more background.

A pleasing balance between the three

Bottle - a pleasing balance
This final photograph should show a balance between the subject, foreground and background and look more pleasing.

Do you think about the foreground, background and subject when you take photographs or do you just snap away?




  1. Sue Tyler
    March 18, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    I liked this part of the course. Although I understand about composition, the task asked us to take images that are not balanced. It made me think more about the different elements.p

    • March 21, 2016 / 1:36 pm

      It really was a good task for making you think about how to place things in a photo

  2. March 19, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    An interesting lesson on photo elements!

  3. March 20, 2016 / 10:55 pm

    It really takes time to learn photography. As you say it is an art and before you can express this in your photos you need to learn how to use a camera, how the lighting works and have an idea of composition.
    It is a fascinating subject though and like you I find it very interesting and yes, I do pay more attention to fore and background now.

    • March 21, 2016 / 1:33 pm

      It is so easy to have something sneak into the shot that you are not aware of unless you take your time.

  4. March 21, 2016 / 10:48 am

    Although I like to try to put a couple of ‘extra’ items into my shots which complement my ‘subject’ without detracting from it (hopefully) I’ve never really thought about the balance of all three of them together. Such an interesting post Alison. I must say I’ve really been enjoying your photography series, you’ve written them in such a way that even I can understand them 🙂
    Angela x

    • March 21, 2016 / 1:33 pm

      Thank you, I am glad you are enjoying them. I thought I had better write it down so I can remember what I am learning!

  5. March 21, 2016 / 11:30 am

    Having something in the background can really make the photograph pop. I try to always remember that for my travel photography.

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