Sunday, June 7, 2015

Creative Composition

I almost titled this post in honor of Martha Stewart because her magazine inspired me to spice up my still life photography.

I toyed with titles like Mostly Martha, A Little Martha Goes a Long Way, Almost Martha, and of course, It's A Good Thing. But in the end, I decided that what the Martha Stewart layout in the May 2015 issue really did was to encourage me to pay extra attention to composition.

Here's the layout from Martha, Nice Shades, with photographs by Paul Barbera.

It's tempting to deliver a series of safe photographs . . . the ones we know we can do.

But with a little extra effort, I can enhance my photographs with depth, thoughtful angles, and careful composition.

A recent article in Click magazine, May/June 2015, Creative Composition, by Lissa Chandler gives some great suggestions. Even though Lissa writes from the perspective of a portrait and wedding photographer, her advice is sound for all types of photography.

Mix it up. Vary the compositions. Even with the identical subject and pose, the picture will look vastly different depending on the composition - wide angle or close, left or right or center. Don't be afraid to move!

Shift your perspective. If you are comfortable shooting from above, try a few pictures shooting head on, into a interesting background or into the light. Unique perspectives draw the viewer to your work.

Find and create textures. In the case of this layout, texture is key. It's the varying nature of the subjects that give texture and depth. All of the items pictured in this layout are from my home - my wardrobe, my kitchen cupboard, my linen closet, my sewing basket. These are a few of the things I use and wear in my everyday life.  They are not props, they are the bits and pieces of my life.

Tie it all together. The weighting of objects, the colors and textures, the angles and perspectives . . . arranging the pictures to create a cohesive study . . . such that the overall composition feels right and yet not predictable.  The arrangement of things - whether your family members for a portrait, the details of a still life photograph, the flowers in a vase or the fabrics for a quilt - is compelling and engaging to both designer and viewer.

And just because it was such fun, I tried a variation with something other than buttons.


One of the things I most enjoy about photography is how much it grows me.  Isn't that what creativity really is? Growth. Photography helps me to make sense of my world, to figure things out, to make my place, and make friends. Photography is an art of resourcefulness.

Can't wait to see what each of you will be making - of your life, your art and your world.

Wishing you a life of creative compositions, Donna


  1. how delightful...I love how you were inspired and yet put your own stamp on it...and I LOVE the second version of the button vignette! I wholeheartedly agree with mixing it up and changing the perspective...applicable to photography, art, whatever! I tell gotta get over to Instagram...

  2. This is so very very awesome and I must say I perfer your to Martha's. Not sure if I'll have time to do this before vacation but you've just laid a challenge before me. Love!

  3. Hi Donna!
    I love your post today! It's so interesting, so stimulating to see what you've done after Martha Stewart... What a creative attitude! It must have been such an exciting fun to gather and arrange your things as you saw them in MS magazine... and even if the game was to stick to Paul Barbera's pictures, your personal and inspired interpretation results in such a lovely collage (I agree with Roxi, much more inspired, elegant and stylish than the original one!)... I think I can recognize some little pieces of fabric... you've set them so artfully! Though I love both collages, I thing my favorite is the second one... the old sewing notions you laid on this lovely checked fabric are a real treasure... I also love your amazing handcrafted stoneware bowls... thank you so much for sharing your inspiration... maybe I'll find one day a spark in a magazine and will try to play that game too...

  4. of course I like your images and composition better : ) such a fun project to tackle. and I am with Odile- I love those stoneware bowls. I also really like your new about me photo - LOVING the gray hair and I actually think it makes you look younger!!

  5. I happened to see the page you ripped from Martha Stewart Living and had no clue what you were going to do with it during our rainy week last week. It's an interesting study on how to use magazines as a springboard. Your photos are better, of course, because there is a spark of life in them--the playfulness of the kitten sewing kit, the personality of your own shirt, hat, and purse against the barn door, instead of generic clothes hanging on a slat wall. Your "shades" are more soothing.

    Your new banner is gorgeous and so is your new photo (I'll be keeping my same one till I'm 90). I think gray looks gorgeous on you!

  6. Donna, would you please continue making these kinds of posts, and teaching us? This is just fabulous! This post inspires me more than anything I've seen in a very long's lovely! I love making collages, so right away I was "soaking in" the beauty here, and drawn into your observations in MS magazine (I need to get a new copy for my summer enjoyment). Your version makes me want to try out all the techniques. Yes, I too adore your pottery bowls...the shape the colors. Thank you so much for sharing this special version and I also love your new "about you" photo!

  7. So two things right off the bat. One, loving your hair. Are you? I have never ever felt freer in my longer worrying about trips to the salon...the money..oh the money.. Two, you have absolutely given Mr. Barbera a run for his money. Martha should be calling you any minute now. I love these. And like many have said above...what an inspiration you are. In a month or so I'll be back in Arizona and starting up my still shots of so many of my travel and family objects. Thank you for being YOU. What a treasure you are!

  8. P.S. I wanted to mention my absolute favorite..even though I adore them all...and that's the cute top, hat and purse. So Anthropologie!! They'll be calling you next! xo

  9. You are looking fabulous, my dear! and I must say - "move over, Martha!" ha! Your collection is fresh, and real and clearly comes from your heart - I love everything about it! Have a wonder-filled week, my friend!

  10. Oh my gosh what a stunning series of collages, Donna. Your work is absolutely amazing and inspiring - wonderful composition and perfect tones in all!

  11. Just returned from my trip to Europe and what fun I had, I also always have fun visiting you and see your insights on photography. Love the series and the photos are always and inspiration to me. Have a wonderful Sunday my relative. :)


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