Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – A sequence of composition

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Choose a situation that involves people and a mix of interesting potential subjects. Move through the scene looking through the viewfinder, taking a sequence of photos as you go along. Record all the images that you consider as possible photographs, culminating in the final shot that captures the scene best.


Canon EOS 650D with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens.


I chose the daily market on Cours Saleya in the old town in Nice, early in the morning while the sun was still quite low. The various stalls sell fresh fruit, veg and flowers, plus you get the local cafes setting up around the outside – so I thought there would be plenty of interesting photo opportunities.


The brief says to keep the viewfinder to your eye throughout, but I found this quite difficult, especially with all the people around! It felt like I was constantly in danger of bumping into something or someone… So I did intermittently lower the camera to navigate around.

The sequence is detailed below. Clicking on a thumbnail will open a slideshow view.

The photo that I landed on at the end of the sequence is one that I think best captures the sights and atmosphere of the market, with the colourful produce as a strong foreground and the people milling around in the background. Whilst the produce is clearly the focus, the background covers a cross-section of the types of people that frequent the market – stallholders, customers, commuters, cafe diners, even a cleaner. This may not mean much to most viewers, but to me it captures the atmosphere of the market really well.

The market at Cours Saleya, May 2013

The market at Cours Saleya, May 2013

In the final photo I reduced the highlights in the top portion of the image, as they were blown to white in the original.

What I’ve learned:

If you’ll pardon the pun, this was real eye-opener. I thought I already took in my surroundings looking for potential photo opportunities, but literally holding the viewfinder to your eye (even if it feels unnatural at first) gives you a much stronger feeling for how the image will turn out. By fixing a frame around the image before you even decide to click the shutter you realise how much or how little of the subject you’re going to get in shot, and what the end result is going to look like.

I found it a little odd to capture all the ‘not quite right’ shots as some of these I’d have rejected at the time. It felt even odder to post the ‘outtakes’ here as I’m usually quite selective about what I publish! But I appreciate that part of the exercise is to capture what didn’t work in addition to what did.


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