Image Structure: By now you will have deduced that patience and using your eyes in an unpromising situation is one way to train yourself to “see”. And if after the exercise the images are still not quite up to your expectations, there’s one final aspect of “learning to see” that can be considered…

It’s the almost abstract and intangible phenomena of Image Structure, i.e. the shapes, colours, lines and contrast between light and dark upon which the other less important details in the photograph lie.

So how does it work?

One quality of good structure is that if the image is viewed from a distance it catches the eye because the basic organization of elements (not the detail) within the frame is obvious, and it’s not a confusing rectangle.

Moving closer, the eyes are initially attracted to the part of an image that’s brightest, most colorful, or the with the most contrast. After that they start to wander around the picture and see what else there is to see. As photographers we have to make sure that the viewers eyes stay in the image, and don’t go wandering out.

Make sure that important elements aren’t cut by the edges of the frame, and keep details out of the corners. If the latter is unavoidable darken the corners to stop the viewer’s eyes from wandering off the edges. Eyes tend to look into the dark areas last – and will only get there if the structure image is strong enough catch them in the first place.

Whilst you should initially ignore detail within the composition, you still need to ascertain that there are no distractions. Any detail that doesn’t add to the overall structure of the image makes it weaker so it’s better left out, otherwise the viewer’s eyes keep going back to it, pulling the eye away from the main point of the image. Small, annoying, unobserved details can be removed during processing.

Image Structure is important because photographers just starting out can get a good shot, because the basic structure has come together by chance. But if they don’t know why it looks good, then it’s difficult to reproduce it.

In conclusion, if an image it doesn’t have the basic structure no amount of time spent on the computer will give it any more structure, it has to be right in your camera.

You’ll probably have also realised it doesn’t finish with taking photographs, because when the images are shot, they need to be processed and edited. The latter, by the way, is something nearly everyone has trouble with – it’s very noticeable on Facebook, so return to the Tutorials page and click on the “Picture Editing” link.