As usual I have no idea what kind of plant this is, and when I tried to find out by submitting the picture to a Google Images search all it came up with was “fruit,” which I am fairly certain this is not. I shot it while (what else?) out on a walk on campus one afternoon with my D7100 + 50mm lens, and in looking back on the picture later on I came to a realization about not just this picture but several of my pictures. It might seem obvious to anyone who reads this blog but I don’t think I ever quite thought about things like this before, and now that I look back at my images with a particular frame of mind I really do think I have come to a conclusion about my photography. Or at least my nature photography. Basically, in looking at this image I think I finally understand what my style is.

If I scan through past images of flowers, greenery, or even man-made objects that I have posted here I think it’s safe to say that this image, of some kind of bulb or seed pod, illustrates a few things that are common in much of my photography. Apparently, as I’m finding out is often the case, I like to place my main subject on the left or right third of the frame. Of this I was well aware, and sure enough I have done it again on today’s photo. (Incidentally, no cropping was involved here. What you see is what I got.) This is kind of an basic rule and one of the first techniques any photographer learns when it comes to composing an image, and yet I think I like it so much because, so often, it just plain works. Others might come along and say the rule of thirds is a crutch, shows a lack of creativity, or is meant to be broken but at the end of the day I find that I really like placing my subjects a little bit off center–usually along one of the thirds.

What this image has helped me realize is a few other elements that show up here also appear in many of my other pictures, and I do think this indicates some sense of an overall style–albeit one that I don’t think I have been implementing intentionally, but is nonetheless present. Along with my subject on the left or right third I also tend to include context clues in the background, often on the opposite third. I like to use a somewhat shallow depth of field, but not so much that the other contextual elements are blurred out so much that you don’t know what they are. I prefer a bit of foreground elements if possible, though there aren’t a whole lot in this picture. I let my subject exist well within the margins of the frame, usually occupying its own small part of the image and not so big that there is nothing else for the viewer to see.

The thing is, it’s good to try new techniques and experiment with different ways of taking photos, but it’s also good to develop your own style over time. Find a type of shot, a type of composition, a certain way of framing your subjects, that you can work on and perfect over the course of your photography life. It’s not a crutch so much as it is your own unique way of seeing the world, and while it is of course good to explore other things it’s nice to have a cushion to fall back on–a home, if you will, that you can return to when you’re not sure what else to try or what other things to do. This photo, I now understand, is an example of what I like and what works for me. It’s simple and quite uninspiring, and won’t win any awards, but it’s comfortable and I enjoy it.

What’s your style?


  1. Cherie Miller says

    I have enjoyed your blog post for almost a year now, and I have never commented. This blog was particularly helpful, made me look at my pictures in a different way, and realize that I need to use the rule of thirds more. Thanks!

    • Thank you so much for commenting Cherie, and I’m so glad to have you as a reader here on Weekly Fifty! Like I mentioned in the audio commentary some people find this old classic Rule of Thirds style kind of boring and uninteresting, but I really like it and I think just following this one simple guideline has helped me improve my photography a lot. I’m sure it will do the same for you too :)

  2. Simon —
    Nice job today of bringing everyone back to one of the bedrock principles of composition — “The Rule of Thirds”. Not a clue what the thing is you took the picture of. But, I like the open aperture to blur the background. What fstop did you use? Also, I am excited to see you using a D7100 w/ 50mm lens as a walkabout camera. Taking mine to the office right now! Thank you, Simon. I appreciate your work putting this site up and keeping it running.

    • David, I must admit I’m a bit comforted by knowing I’m not the only one who is confused as to what in the world this thing actually is :) I shot this at f/2.8 which was probably a bit too wide, and perhaps a slightly smaller aperture would have been better but like you said it did result in a nice bit of background blur which is always good. Thank you for reading and commenting! I always enjoy hearing from you and I hope you get some good shots with your D7100 + 50mm lens today!

  3. When I compose or crop my images, unless the subject is strictly symmetrical, I also tend to use the Rule of Thirds. It just works.

    I have recently started teaching a class on photography for adults at a local vocational school. In the last class of the year, I introduced the Rule of Thirds as a teaser to the composition tools I would be teaching in the fall. I saw a couple of eyes widen. I think, more than the technical knowledge, the students were there to learn to compose better photos. Hopefully they will all be back. I did mention your blog as a good read. I like that you discuss your thought process as you take photos.

    We all learn from each other. Don’t we?

    • Rebecca, I didn’t know you are teaching a photography class! How cool is that? I would love to sit in on your lessons if I lived anywhere nearby, because like you said we all learn from each other. I’m so glad your students are open to trying new things like the Rule of Thirds and I am honored that you would mention my little blog in your class :)

      • It is an adult enrichment class. Most students are new to DSLR photography. We teach them how to get out of Auto. I am in no way an expert, but it has been fun passing along my knowledge.

        • This is such a good idea Rebecca, and now you’ve got me wondering if there are any courses like this in my area that I might be able to teach. Hmm…

          Thanks for the idea and inspiration!

  4. Narendra Bansal says

    I recently stumbled upon this blog and like it very much, especially since I recently upgraded my camera to D7100. It is inspirational that Simon, who is in an academic setting can get amazing results, w/o going for more expensive models or too much technical jargon. I do not know if the published images have been subjected to lot of post processing, for which I have limited knowledge.
    I learned a new lesson from this post, i.e. that the rule of 3rds apply not only for foreground, middle ground and background but also left, right and the middle.
    Completely agree that in close up photography, unless it is a portrait, keeping subject off center is more pleasing.
    Great work Simon. So glad that you find time to write these articles and answer all the comments. Great teacher :-)

    • Thank you so much for your comments Narendra! I really appreciate you taking the time to post here. Regarding postprocessing, I honestly don’t do much except a bit of tweaking to the highlights and shadows along with a little (and I do mean little) bit of other color edits. Nothing major at all to any of the pictures you see here, unless I say something specific about it in the writeup.

      I’m so glad you learned something new from this post, and I will certainly keep the articles coming as long as nice people like you keep reading! :)

  5. Janet Richardson says

    Simon, thanks for the time you put into your articles. I enjoy reading them. As far as your picture, you are on the campus of one of the best agricultural extension groups in the U.S. Shoot it over to them. I bet they know what it is.

    • That’s a great idea, Janet! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner. I’ll send it over and see what they can tell me.

  6. I think you often achieve something moody with the light. I like that the way the background supports the fore. It might be a pattern but for the limited depth.

    • You’re right about the light, William. You demonstrate this all the time in your own photography as well: paying attention to the light and composing your photos accordingly can make a huge difference in the quality of the final product.

  7. Gra Smith says

    I recently started following Weekly Fifty after enjoying your articles in DPS. Really like your unassuming style and one of the few who can be bothered to post replies.
    Could the Rule of Thirds not apply to this style of photo as there is nothing else competing for attention?

    • Hello Gra and thank you so much for your comments! I’m glad you like my articles in DPS and thanks for checking out my little blog too :) You could be right about the rule of thirds in this photo, especially since there isn’t much else going on that would take the viewer’s attention. I do wonder what it would look like if the subject were perfectly centered (and perhaps I could go into Lightroom and crop the image to find out) but I don’t often compose my shots that way out of personal preference. I think a lot of it really does come down to your own unique style and learning to hone that over time.

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