Creative Composition – Break the Rules!

by Robyn Porteen
( November 9th, 2014 )

Creative composition in photography

Break the rules and let your creativity take over to tell a story with your photography. There are many rules when it comes to composition in photography, symmetry, and the rule of thirds are just a couple. Being self-taught, I like to  just go with what I think looks best. Who needs rules, right!

Here are some suggestions for making creative choices on composition. 

I like to let the imagination wonder where a person is looking or walking.  The woman in the photo below is walking down the street with a bouquet of flowers. There is nothing exciting about this photo and it doesn’t make you wonder where she is going, she is just a part of the sidewalk scene.

Woman walking in Dublin

Here is another shot of the same woman walking but the photo has been composed with the woman on the right side of the frame. Now it looks as though she has just entered the frame giving the image some motion. There is a direction to where she is going by leaving a path to the left in the image. Isolating her out of the other people on the sidewalk makes her the focal point. Now one can wonder where she is going with those flowers. All of the arrows present in this photo also lead to asking that question.

Woman Walking on right side of frame.


I photographed this cat on a bench in Dublin and centered him in the frame. I usually do not do center my images, so I must have been photographing quickly that day. When I reviewed this later, I didn’t like the plain composition with the trash showing under the bench. There was little to no feeling here.

Cat sleeping on bench centered in frame.

With a little creative cropping, the photo has a sense of peacefulness and shows the quiet atmosphere of the area. This one makes me want to curl up on the bench with the cat!

Cat Sleeping on bench to the right side of frame.


Composing on the side of the frame works great with faces! If a person is looking in a direction, keep their face to the side opposite of where their eyes are looking. It gives a sense of wonder to a photo.

Aussie with Hat looking to the left.

Closer off center cropping can also show more feeling. The photo below is nice and it shows a cute little girl looking downwards.

Girl centered in frame.

I like this crop better, it shows more feeling and your focus might be more on what the girl is thinking or feeling.

Little girl with hat cropped for feeling.

You can make these same decisions with inanimate objects like buildings and landscape features. If you place the focal point to the right or left side of the frame, you leave the eye to follow the path of the front of the building. It can also showcase the surrounding area and tell more of a story about where the building is located. You can see the landscape in the photo below and the church is just a part of the terrain instead of the focal point.

Church in Irish Countryside

I am including the photo I took in the Brush section of Detroit. Putting the home in the right side of the frame allows you to see the houses in the background that are all fixed up. It makes you wonder if this house has a chance of reclaiming it’s original beauty. If it had been photographed in the center of the frame, it might not have told the same story.

A view of one of the Mansard houses in Detroit.

All photography by Robyn Porteen

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Travel Photography – It’s in the Details

by Robyn Porteen
( October 27th, 2014 )

Travel Photography Tips

Travel Photography – It’s in the Details.

Traveling to foreign cities can be overwhelming with the hustle and bustle of daily activities. There are people making their way to work and tourists staring up into the air at the architecture attempting to take it all in. It might be intimidating to just start pointing your camera at strangers. My advice is to break yourself in by paying attention to the details and small things around you.

Spices and Incense

You will be amazed at how many more photos you will come home with and you will end up with a very unique collection from your trip. If you were to send five people to the same place and tell them to focus on the details, everyone would come back with a different set of images. Photographing the details will show your own unique perspective.

Travel Photography Details

These images were selected from a trip to Israel in 2009 and all of them bring me right back to that small place in time. The old city of Jerusalem had a certain smell and feeling about it. There was a sense of danger and awe.  I had no problem finding details to focus on in my daily walks around the city.

Poster in Jerusalem

Travel Photography

It’s usually the photos like these that I end up printing and framing. I think the details have more of an artistic nature. I love doors and have collected photos of doorways from around the world.

You might want to try collections of certain things on your travels. Faces, street signs, and close-up architectural shots are all great subjects for collections.

In the details


All photography by Robyn Porteen 


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Castle Hopping Off the Beaten Path

by Robyn Porteen
( October 16th, 2014 )

Minard CastleIreland is my favorite spot to visit and I have been there several times. I have many stories to share about this beautiful country. Fascinated by history, the first thing planned was to explore the old castles and homesteads and imagine what life was like a few centuries ago. We take pride in history in the US, but we are hard pressed to find many structures or sites that are more than 300 years old.

Many of the Castles have been turned into tourist traps and there are long queues just to get inside. So I made the decision to explore the abandoned castles off the beaten path. Research was done online and I found an older book published by The Daily Telegraph called Castles & Ancient Monuments of Ireland. It was published in 2001, but I figured that some of these castles have been standing since the 1200’s so a 12 year old book would still be valid.

Castles and Ancient Monuments of Ireland

What’s great about this book is that it sections off parts of Ireland, has decent maps and takes the time to really tell the history of the entire area and each individual site. In some cases it will let you know that the castle is on private property and how to contact the property owner and their suggested hours for visiting the site.

Climbing over walls and dodging sheep were all part of the excitement of discovering some of these hidden gems. I always made sure to knock on the door of the owners house and humbly ask permission before wandering through the ruins. Always show respect for the property owner.

Fireplaces from each floor of a crumbling castle


Be cautious in these buildings, they are old and crumbling, Many of them have stairs that go to second floors or higher and there are no safety rails or even people to come to your aid at these remote locations if you get injured.

Leave them as you found them, don’t litter or try to take a piece of the building home with you, these should still be enjoyed by generations to come and it would be easy for the property owners to restrict access.

Photographers: Figure out which direction these are facing in the sun and try to capture them  in the right light. Pick the best ones for sunset or sunrise by which direction the main structure is facing.  I visited a few that I could not photograph well because the only exposed side for taking the photo had the sun behind it. There is nothing worse than being excited to see a beautiful, historical castle and not being able to get that perfect shot!

Keep your camera on the ready as you approach, crows will gather in these structures and when startled, they will fly out and circle above the castle or perch where you can photograph them.

Birds Circling Castle


Since I purchased this book, I did some research this week and found a few more that have good reviews published in the last five years. I still plan on taking my current book with me each time I visit this beautiful country, it is a proven guide for my explorations.

Old doorways inside an old castle

All photography by Robyn Porteen

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