Assignment 2 – Elements of Design, Tutor Feedback

Below is the feedback from my Tutor for my second OCA TOAP assignment. I have chosen to insert a copy of the image the comment relates too to give additional context. The original submission can be seen here.

Overall Comments

I appreciate you sending me another assignment, Ian. You are working well.

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment

Feedback on assignment

Elements to consider with your assignments:

This assignment gives you scope to work with an interesting selection of items, or found subject matter with strong compositional emphasis. Subjects should be suitable for demonstrating the appropriate subtitle. (eg single point dominating) Consideration should also be given to other techniques explained in the exercises such as lines and shapes within the frame.

Your assignment in connection with the above points

You have chosen to construct still life images for this assignment based around food. This has proved to be a useful approach allowing you the opportunity to really concentrate on the element of design and on creating your own results. Working in this way may prove to be a big help in future assignments allowing you to think very carefully about creative elements of your work.

Single Point Dominating

Single Point

The egg image starts the set very well. It is a good choice of subject due to its ability to be read on many levels. The image has been constructed nicely with lighting used appropriately to accentuate your ‘point’. The colour of the yolk helps to draw the eye in to the right area of the frame. You have made an interesting point with the position of the knife and fork and the part consumed appearance of the egg. These are the kind of considerations that you will need to put in to your images as you move through the course. Sometimes this will mean attempting images and then returning to re-shoot at a later point in time. Any work you do can be included in your working logbook and need not wasted.

Two points dominating

2 Points

As you point out here, the cutting board has started to add complications to your construction. Although the bright colours of the fruit help to draw the eye in the right direction I am struggling to avoid gazing in the direction of the third element.

Several points in a deliberate shape

Several Points

The contrast of the strawberries against the plainer colours of the background helps the mind to organize these as a deliberate shape.

Vertical and horizontal lines

Horizontal and Vertical Lines

You point out in your notes that the lines of the jam let this image down a little. If you look at the black and white version of this shot, this becomes more evident. The jam doesn’t contrast tonally quite so well against the cake. Your ideas are good here and it would be worth trying alternatives to the jam to achieve the desired result.

Diagonal lines


I am seeing this as individual pieces of corn, collected together, rather than lines. As you point out, you may have been able to work effectively with lighting to create the lines you desire here. Alternatively you may find an easier solution to demonstrating diagonal lines.

Curved lines


This image is very busy. Think about what draws the eye across the frame. The isolated apple for instance is quite powerful here. Even in the grayscale version there are conflicting areas of domination.

Distinct if irregular shapes

Distinct Shape

The banana works well here. The outline shapes are accentuated nicely against the plain background and the colours help to add uniformity to the outcome.

Implied triangles

Implied Triangle 1

Implied Triangle 2

Both examples given work very well, with nice clear visual messages.



The black and white version of this image is particularly effective. The apples have good tonal variation and the rhythm is apparent.



The pattern is evident in the arrangement of kiwi fruits.

Summary/ Pointers for future work

It is difficult at this stage to create interesting images whilst trying to run through the complexities of the exercises at the same time. However, you have made considerable effort to satisfy both elements. All of your exposures are nice and strong and your technical ability apparent. Your accompanying notes have been clear and helpful, giving a good indication of the level of thought that is now going into your work. You have started to give thought here to the way that colours also have some bearing on the way that we perceive the images. This will be very useful for the next assignment.

Learning Logs

The purpose of a learning log is to help you to reflect on your own work and also give you the opportunity to explore, investigate and reflect on the work of other photographers. I would like to see research appearing in your blog now. Choose examples relevant to your learning experience and talk about images that you find that appeal (or don’t appeal) to you, giving your reasons for this and what you can take from the experience.


Assignment 2 – Elements Of Design

Assignment Objective

The second assignment for my OCA TOAP photography course has been to look at the elements of design in an image. Over the last few months, I’ve been working through the module assignments looking at the effect of points, lines and shapes within an image. For the assignment, I have put together a collection of images that bring all these ideas together around a single subject.

Chosen Subject and Approach

The assignment suggested a number of subjects that could be chosen from:

  • flowers and plants
  • landscapes
  • street details
  • the raw materials of food

The last option in the list opened the subject up completely by allowing the selection of my own subject and I decided that I would make my subject simply foods, making it less restrictive than raw foods.

The reason for choosing foods was that I had an interest in developing my ideas, skills and techniques in photographing still life subjects. My first experience of still life photography was during a project in this module and it wasn’t a great success. The projects aim was to construct a still life image with multiple points so that the points in the image worked together but were not positioned as to be boring. I was so completely focused on the structure of the image that I failed to notice that the image as a whole was very flat, uninteresting and boring, not because of the predictable way the objects had been placed.

A later project in this module required the construction of two still life images showing implied triangles and I was determined that I would identify what it was that was so unsuccessful in my first still life and work towards not making the same mistake again. Studying other peoples images, I realised that the elements missing from my first image were a sense of depth and any interesting lighting. By paying attention to the depth and lighting, my second still life attempt was much more successful.

The Assignment

1. Single Point Dominating the Composition

Single Point

To create a point in an image, an object needs to be relatively small in the image but contrast with the background so that it becomes significant. Here, the egg contrasts significantly with the plain white background. The lighting is being used to emphasise the contrast and provide a sense of depth by creating the shadows. The narrative of the scene was to try and show a delicious runny egg ready to be eaten. On reflection, the egg is looking like it has already begun to satisfy someones hunger so rearranging the cutlery to be less formally placed and adding some toast crumbs could strengthen the story being told.

2. Two Points

2 Points

This was a simple scene where there are two point which are small and strongly contrast with there background. Technical consideration was given to try and ensure the two points were in focus, by selecting an appropriate narrow aperture, but the cutting board and knife were starting to fall out of focus so as to not detract from the two points. Also, with the addition of the chopping board and knife to give the image a purpose, I had to rearrange the points so that the image had a sense of balance.

3. Several Points in a Deliberate Shape

Several Points

The intention of this image was to arrange the points into a start shape. When I look at the image, this is how I see the points working together. However, when I have shown other people the image and explained the intention was to arrange the points into a deliberate shape, they have replied that it is a circle. I found this interesting and it demonstrates the idea that as much as we can use the elements of design to try and influence the way someone looks at and sees an image, we can’t control them.

4. A Combination of Vertical and Horizontal Lines

Horizontal and Vertical Lines

In this image, I’ve tried to use the lines to guide the viewer through the scene. The vertical lines created by the knives take you into the scene, the horizontal lines of the stacked plates take you to the cake and then the intention of the jam running out of the cake was to take you back down towards the bottom of the image. I feel the lines of the knives and the plates are quite strong but the intended lines created by the jam don’t seem to be quite strong enough.

The narrative of the scene is a cake waiting to be cut. The lines in the image are contributing towards a sense of stability and nothing moving which hopefully brings about a feeling of anticipation for the cake being cut and served.

5. Diagonals


Using the corn, I liked how arranging them to go across the frame formed two sets of diagonals – one formed by the objects whole and the other in the opposite direction formed by the objects structure. On reflection, I feeling the lighting could have been improved in this image. Diagonals themselves can give a sense of depth but the even lighting is detracting from this.

6. Curves


The number of elements used to create the effect of the curve in this image made it the image that took the most time to create. In the image, the main curve was intended to be the items on and immediately around the plated with the spot of jam providing a central pivot point. Initially, this arrangement was leaving the background empty and uninteresting so additional items were introduced and were arranged to support the main curve.

7. Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

Distinct Shape

I couldn’t think of any food that had a more distinctive shape than a banana but I didn’t just want the image to be of a plane, unpealed banana. By cutting the banana in half, having carefully pealed back the skin, I created an arrangement that I felt had curves taking the eye though the image and had a pleasing symmetry.

8. Implied Triangle 1

Implied Triangle 1

The original idea of this image was to simply take a triangular slice out of the cake. However, as the cake was cut, I found myself with two triangles and I decided I wanted to get both into the composition. I experimented with a number of arrangements before I settled on the one used. The earlier attempts didn’t seemed to be working because the lines being created kept leading the eye out of the image. Finally, by using and arranging the spoons, the image has finished with three implied triangles within one image that work well together.

9. Implied Triangle 2

Implied Triangle 2

When researching ideas for how to photography food, I liked the back lit effect created with pieces of transparent fruit which I have replicated here. As with the example of the implied triangle above, I’ve been able to include multiple implied triangle into this image.

10. Rhythem


With this image, I was trying to create two parallel rhythms symbolising two lines on a musical score. In the foreground, there is a definite rhythm for the eye two follow. However, in the background, I’m not completely convinced that the apple stalks don’t interrupt the rhythm being created.

11. Pattern


This is a simple image demonstrating the idea of a pattern. To give the image a slightly more dynamic feel, I arranged the kiwis to form slightly diagonal lines whilst making sure the items broken the image boundary and suggesting the pattern continues outside of what can be seen.

Final Thoughts

In the introduction to this module, the course notes mention that “Colour, in this context, can be something of a distraction”. Before deciding on the final images to use for the assignment, I tried converting them all to grey scale (with some adjustments to the image processing) to see if they still had strength in the points, lines and shapes. The grey scale conversions have been included in a gallery below and I feel they do still demonstrate the intended design elements.

When putting the images together, I tried to think of the images as a collective panel of work so tried to keep the images look and feel similar. In order to light the images, I was using a torch to paint in the light in a darken room, so it took a number of attempts to get the lighting as I wanted for each picture. On the whole, I think the images work well together as a collection with the only exception being the image taken to demonstrate curves. In this image, I was struggling a little with the edges of the images and I decided that adding a vignette supported the composition. On reviewing the images as a complete collection, this may not have been the best idea.

My natural inclination for selecting a subject would have been to choose something to do with nature or landscapes as these are the subjects I have previously enjoyed the most and feel most comfortable with. Choosing a subject that lent itself to still life/table top photography took me out of my comfort zone but has expanded my experience and photography techniques.

Greyscale Conversions

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Rhythms and Patterns

Objective: Produce at least two photographs, one should convey rhythm, the other a pattern.


As stated in Michael Freeman’s book “The Photographers Eye” – “Rhythm is a feature of the way the eye scans the picture as much as of the repetition. It is strongest when each cycle in the beat encourages the eye to move…”. I roughly had this statement, along with the description in the course notes, in mind when I took the image below:


Whilst in this church, I tried a number of different compositions starting with square to the wall. Because of the archways, the images included elements of repetition and had a certain level of visual beats but they initially felt very static and lacking a certain amount of interest. Using the knowledge of the previous exercises, I knew I could generate some dynamism into the image by changing the composition to include diagonal lines instead of the horizontal lines that I’d started with. This lead me to the image above which I think maintains the repetition but makes the rhythm more interesting.


Using the pattern design concept has been very interesting. I’ve come across a number of scenes where there are example of limited patterns and by ensuring that the patterns breaks the edge of the image, has created a stronger composition and a more interesting image. A strong example of this is below:


Real and Implied Triangles

Objective: Produce two sets of triangular compositions in photographs, one using ‘real’ triangles, the other making ‘implied’ triangles.

Real Triangles


This image was selected to show a subject which itself is triangular. After looking for triangles explicitly for a short period of time, I started to frequently see them in many places. However, this single image felt like it contained a large collection of triangles of varying sizes.


This image is loosely demonstrating how a triangle can be created using perspective. By selecting a wide angle lens and looking upwards at a vertical subject, the verticals will start to converge towards the top of the image.


The intention of this image was to show an inverted triangle created by perspective. I have to be honest that creating this took me a while to work out and is ultimately why I have decided to use an image that doesn’t strongly show the intention but is the first image that I took when I realised how the inverted triangle can be created. In the image, the clouds at the top of the image have started to form the inverted triangle. Seeing this was when I realised that by using a wide angle lens and looking upwards at something parallel to the ground, the lines will converge going into the picture.



The creation of my first still life image was done in the Multiple points exercise. Having revisited the exercise, I felt that I was completely focused on a set of related points and didn’t create an interesting image. With the image above, I wanted to create a still life image that contained a triangle with the apex at the top but was also interesting. Looking at other still life images made me realise that my first still life attempt was missing any interesting lighting and also didn’t contain any depth. With this image, I feel that I produced an image that met the goal of producing a triangle but is also interesting.


Using the same still life principles but this time inverting the triangle produced this image. I feel I have successfully created an implied inverted triangle in an image that includes interesting lighting and contains some depth. However, the background on this image is a real let down. I needed something that would contrast with the black shaver guards and thought that layers of paper would work. This clearly wasn’t the case.


The final aim of this exercise was to arrange three people into a group in such a way that either their faces or the lines of their bodies make a triangle. I managed to create this image by shooting a father sitting on some stairs looking down at his daughter who was leaning back so that you could clearly see her face. Also, on the steps next to the father was another young girl looking down at the baby girl. This image hasn’t been included in the blog as the parents aren’t keen on having the childs pictures put on the internet and I wanted to respect this. Instead, I have illustrated the concept with these penguins.

Implied Lines

The previous exercises on horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved lines have demonstrated how strong and active lines encourage the eye to follow them. Taking the concept further, we can use implied, or imagined, lines to try and guide the viewers attention in a more subtle way.

Part 1 of this exercise was to examine two images and identify the implied lines:

N.B The original images are copied from the OCA TOAP assignment

Here we see the original images and then the annotated images showing the implied lines. In the bull fighter image, the strongest line is clearly generated by the charge of the bull and the dust caused by his motion. The capture of the matadors movement support this implied line by guiding the eye back around and into the main action area of the image. Similar characteristics can be seen with the horses being trained. The motion of the horses are creating a line the appears to be heading out of the frame but this is then balanced by the directions of the horses heads. The combination of the lines create an imagined curve taking the eye around to the trainer. The trainers apparent motion and posture again directs us by into the action.

Having studied these images, three images of my own have been selected to try and identify implied lines:

This image was selected as it demonstrates similar characteristics to the two images above. The motion of the crocodile guides the eye upwards towards it’s prey and this is supported by the motion of the zoo keeper coming into the image. Unlike the images above, there are no additional lines to cycle the eye back around leaving the bottom right hand corner empty.

In this image, I felt that there was a very visible diagonal that was being supported by additional implied lines. In the foreground, the fence is a strong visible line taking the eye up to the mount. Once my eye reaches the mount, the intended subject of the image, I found my eye started to drift to the right of the picture. It is to the right that I felt that the combination of the shore line and the clouds then direct the eye back into the picture.

This image has a number of subtle lines that guide the eye. The motion created in the water and the boat itself lead the eye into the picture, the tree line takes over and finally the steam guides the eye upwards.

The last part of the exercise was to take two images with specific types of implied lines – an eye-line and the extension of a line or lines that point.

This image demonstrate an eye line. As the image is scanned, the human face is the first thing to be noticed and then the gaze guides us to the water coming in from the ocean.

In this image, it was captured with the intention of the boat pointing to the loan tree on the hill. The boat doesn’t point directly at the tree but does guide the eye in the general direction. The tree is acting as a point in the image so would probably be strong enough to capture the eyes attention but the horizon line is providing an extra piece of guidance. With this image, I think the tree is probably to small for it to work really well and the brightness and size of the boat is over-powering. However, I felt that the demonstration of the idea made it worth including in my learning log.

As a side note, earlier this week, I was attending a photography competition at my local camera club and the judge was very keep on lines. There were a number of occasions when he mentioned that unless there is a human face in the image our eye would tend to lead into the image in the way we would read a book. For me, this is from the top left corner (although that isn’t the case in all cultures). Keeping this in mind, it could strengthen this last image.


Like the previous post on diagonal lines, curves can also be used to convey movement and direction and can be a good tool for guiding the eye through an image. However, unlike diagonal lines, curves tend to only convey direction one way. The images below are all examples demonstrating the use of curves:

Here the wave provides the curve showing both movement and direction.

This is an example of how a curve can be used to lead the eye up to a point in the image.

The elephants trunk provides the curve and gives a sense of direction.

Finally, the curve here gives a sense of movement. The curve is being exaggerated by using a more acute angle.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines are easily created in photography but occur less often naturally than horizontal and vertical lines. They can give a feeling of depth and unlike the lines running parallel to the image frame, they give a sense of movement and direction. Diagonal lines can feel unstable or give a sense of falling. The images below are intended to demonstrate these attributes of diagonal lines.

The diagonal in this image has been contrived by being positioned to the side of the boat moving towards the came and then to further emphasise it, the camera has been slightly rotated. This image is using the diagonal to convey a sense of direction.

This image is using the diagonal to emphasise the depth of the bridge. The top of the bridge naturally draws the eye but looking at the uprights, it can be seen that they are getting progressively smaller, forming additional diagonals in the image.

Another demonstration of how diagonals can be created by using perspective – this time without using any camera rotation.

This last image is creating diagonals by making use of converging lines.