A Very Particular Set of Skills

Back in the ancient days of my youth, a person actually had to have a camera with them to take a picture. But today’s generation has photos at their fingertips by merely pulling out a cell phone. Taking a selfie or a snapshot is effortless. But by applying a few photography techniques, one can take the quality of those photos up a notch. I’m going to discuss three particular skills: Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and Depth of Field.

I found this outstanding photograph in the August 2017 issue of Adventure Cycling magazine. It’s on the title page of the article “Canada’s Great Trail: A dream at 125 years is ‘connected’ at 150” by Ellee Thalheimer. The photo was taken by Jean-Marc Carisse and is courtesy of Trans Canada Trail. The caption reads “Trans Canada Trail Board Chair Paul LaBarge shares a misty morning with some very appropriate avian traffic.”

I love this photo! The cyclist is herding geese, with a barren tree in the foreground and hazy outlines of trees in the background. It has a pleasant feel to it from calming colors, and is an excellent example of the Rule of Thirds.

My next photo is an ad in the May 2017 issue of Backpacker magazine, printed on page 55. The featured company is eno, which turns out to be a brand of hammocks. https://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com/. I chose this picture because of  its strong Leading Lines that draw the eye to the waterfall.



My third professional photo is from the cookbook Asian Cooking: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian Recipes. The inside cover states “Favorite Brand Name Recipes (trademark) Presents Vol. 1, No. 62, February 16, 2016, published by Publications International, Ltd. The specific photo is found on page 41 alongside the recipe for “Bean Threads with Tofu and Vegetables.”

Depth of Field is the most recognizable photography tool to me, because it’s used in absolutely every photo of food. Whether it’s a recipe, menu selection, or Pinterest food, depth of field is employed. I chose this Asian dish because the background is more cluttered than other examples, so it clearly demonstrates the advantage of using this tool.


Rule of Thirds

The first analysis is the Canadian picture that uses the rule of thirds so well. This composition rule involves laying an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid across a photo. The four places where the lines intersect are the strongest focal points. In this picture we see the cyclist at one of those points and diagonally from it, we see the center of the tree. The grid lines themselves are the second strongest focal points. Here we see the horizon with the line of geese and the bicycle.

For comparison, my neighborhood didn’t have the same misty, soothing elements. To showcase the rule of thirds here I took a photo of the freeway and telephone lines outside the YMCA in Monument, Colorado. The semi truck becomes the focal point as its at the lower right intersection. Not particularly exciting, but there you go.


Above photo by Connie Wilson

Leading Lines

The next analysis is of the eno ad, with a photographer relaxing in the hammock. This picture showcases leading lines. The bright, contrasting color of the hammock causes the eyes to naturally sweep towards the edge of the clearing, which reveals a waterfall. Although dark, the shine on the camera is a line pointing straight up, and it takes the eyes directly to the eno brand logo.

The picture I took to mimic the leading lines example is of my daughter relaxing on the front porch. Her legs form the lines that direct the eyes to the stunning autumn leaves on our tree.


Above photo by Connie Wilson

Depth of Field

Depth of Field is used to draw attention to the object in focus, whether it’s in the foreground or the background. Often the object in focus has more light reflecting from it, which also makes it more noticeable. In this photo of “Bean Threads with Tofu and Vegetables,” the details of the food are more sharply in focus than the napkin, glass and other dishes in the background.








The photo I took to mimic the one above is of a typical Asian recipe prepared in my home. Note the food in the foreground is sharply in focus, while the background method of cooking is blurred. This allows the mind to grasp all the elements of the meal, while the photo spotlights dinner itself.


Above photo by Connie Wilson

Daily we are exposed to countless photos– in advertisements, social media, books, newspapers, etc. To make a photo stand out and be memorable, the photographer uses techniques that help steer the reader to what the artist wants him to see. Skills such as Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines and Depth of Field help accomplish that goal.


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