Composition Can Help to tell Your Story by Joanna B. Pinneo

Composition is the process of putting a frame around the elements that are important to include in a photograph. It is one of the cornerstones of great photography. Wonderful photographs are often made by the simplest of cameras. Whether you use a DSLR or your phone the difference is the person behind the camera and your framing skills.

To perfect your composition skills, it helps to develop the art of seeing well.  By seeing well, I mean that the photographer has pulled together the various elements that combine to make an interesting picture - the subject, the light and the composition. Composition is one of the hardest things to master when you are beginning. Showing something in everyday life in an interesting way takes practice and taking a lot of pictures from different angles composing the images in different ways.

Composition helps you show the essence of a place and create a mood. The way you compose your photograph not only draws in the viewer by it’s design but also by the way it helps you to tell your story.

I photographed an assignment for National Geographic on the Sonoran Desert which is located in Arizona and Mexico. I wanted to show how people use and enjoy the desert on both sides of the US-Mexican border.  

When I learned that this area of the desert was a great place to store these vintage B52 bombers (and other planes) I headed to Davis-Monthan Air Force base southeast of Tucson. Because of the climate in the desert and type of dirt the planes do not rust and are stored here. As photographers we become visual problem solvers. When I arrive at a location I first assess the situation and figure out where I want to be – where to start - what will make the most interesting composition?   What you choose to include can help tell the story and makes some order out of chaos.

When I got there and saw the planes spread out in front of me it seemed as if they were marching across the desert. I was able to commandeer a cherry picker so I could get up high to get this wonderful overview that captured my sense of the planes moving across the desert.  After I finished that image I wandered around and at this lower angle the planes reminded me of sharks moving through the sea with their fins cutting the water. The images are very different but both tell a story. Composition helped to convey that story. The image taken from above was the published image.