Essential elements of a Photograph

There are no set rules governing how you turn the world in front of you into a digital image. However, some people are undoubtedly better at “seeing” pictures than others. Being able to visualize the potential photographic possibilities in even the most mundane of scenes is a skill that can be learned.

Fundamental to developing a photographer’s eye is the ability to identify the key structural elements within the scene in front of you. Used widely in the teaching of art, this concept is equally useful when learning to make the best use of a digital camera. Whether the image is color or monochrome, subjects can be said to have up to five of these essential attributes: shape, tone, form, pattern, and texture.

Shape is simply the outline of the subject. Tone is the variation between light and dark that is essential to show us the edges of an image, to show the depth of a three- dimensional object, and to reveal the nature of a subject’s surface. Form is the element that enables us to see that a ball is a sphere rather than a disk—and is very important in many forms of photography, because it provides the third dimension missing from a two-dimensional image. Texture shows the surface undulations of a subject. Pattern is the repetition of one or more of the other elements through the frame.

Sometimes just one of these elements will dominate the frame. It is also perfectly possible for a successful picture to contain all of the elements at once. the significance of the five key elemenst lies in the fact that by altering viewpoint, or lighting, it is possible to accentuate one element in a scene compared to all others. An image simplified in this way will often be more successful.

By choosing a camera viewpoint that emphasizes the pattern ina scene, for instance, you can sometimes produce a more artistic image than if you simply photograph the subject as a whole. often there is more than one element you can exploit - which one you shoose will have a dramatic inluence on the resulting image.


Form and Tone