Making It Compelling, Pt. 2—Framing, Scale, and More

Photo by Peter W. Coulson

This is a continuation of Part 1, which talked about using color theory to make compelling images. Today, I’m going to talk about some other techniques that don’t involve color but still can help make your pictures better.


Framing is kind of hard to literally define, but I’ll try: it’s when you take a picture that makes it seem like one or more figures is encapsulated by another figure. In street photography, the encapsulated figure is usually a person or a small group of people, and the encapsulating figure is usually (not always) a three-dimensional form that only appears two-dimensional when it’s photographed from a certain angle. For example, when I photographed the metal structure in the lead image head-on, it showed up as a rectangle in the final picture. I waited for those two people to start to walk by the metal structure, and then fired off about six or seven exposures, one of which captured them as they walked right in front of the structure.

(Here‘s another example. I’m not sure if it was candid or staged — Lewis Hine was probably working with a cumbersome large-format camera, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the latter.)

This is a very, very useful technique. It works just as well in large prints as it does on small screens. You don’t need a particularly long or short lens to do it. (I use a 35mm lens on my crop-sensor digital camera, which is roughly a normal lens.) You don’t need to use any special equipment. There’s no shortage of places you can put it into action. Really, all you need is a decent camera and a bit of patience, and you can use it again and again.

Continue reading “Making It Compelling, Pt. 2—Framing, Scale, and More”

Making It Compelling, Pt. 1: Color

A triadic color scheme (cyan, magenta, yellow). All photographs in this article by Peter W. Coulson.

This week is an off week, so I thought I’d write a little bit about making compelling photos. I’m not an expert by any means, and this isn’t a complete list, just a few things involving color that lead to more interesting pictures. I’ll get into more strategies next week.


You should learn it, look for it, and apply it. If you don’t know anything about it, Ted Gore has a good article about it on his website. He doesn’t go into the symbolism associated with the different colors, but we don’t care about that right now. Bookmark the article on your computer and your phone (especially your phone — that way you’ll always be able to reference it) and see if you can recognize any of the basic principles in visual art you encounter in your daily life. Yes, this includes movies and TV shows and advertisements. Cinematographers and art directors study this stuff for years and years; do you really think they’d never use it?

But knowing color theory, in itself, won’t suddenly make your compositions better. Applying it will.

Continue reading “Making It Compelling, Pt. 1: Color”