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How To Create Multi-Layered Photographs That Tell A Story

How to use various points of interest in one image to create meaning.

|  General Photography
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  • A DSLR will be more fitting than a compact camera as using interchangeable lenses means you can pick and choose your focal lengths with more flexibility. If you're planning on purchasing a new camera don't forget that Pentax are currently running cashback offers on several of their products. Visit the Pentax website for more information. 
  • Tripod – not always essential but handy for panning if you're photographing movement in your scene.



Using multiple layers of interest in your images can create a shot that's more dynamic and often one that's more fun to look at for the viewer. But for the shot to work you need to have already come with a concept that works before you begin taking your photographs, knowing exactly how you want the viewer to react to the shot you're producing.

Know What You're Trying To Say

If you're going to have various points of interest in your frame double-check the viewfinder before you take your shot to make sure there are no elements that distract the viewer or change the story you're trying to create. For example, you may be photographing children in a park with a playground and other children behind them but there's also a big, overflowing rubbish bin in frame too that should be cropped out. On the other hand you may find an element you didn't think of actually adds to what you're trying to tell the viewer or creates a shot with a totally new meaning, such as a shopping trolley and other items that shouldn't be found on a beach in the back of a shot of holiday makers at the coast.

Pick A Llocation

It is much easier to do some research and find a location that fits the theme you're trying to create rather than trying to make any location work for you. Doing a little bit of research will also give you time to find out what the light is like at various points during the day, if it gets busy etc.

Subtle Messages Or More Obvious?

You can use lots of elements in a shot that has front to back sharpness to really shout the message you're trying to create or you can still have one main subject and use elements in the foreground/background more subtly. This usually means using a little bit of creative blur so the viewer can still see the other elements, but understand that the photo is still mainly about the object/person who's sharp.

What's In Focus

As mentioned above, it is important to check that the right bits of your shot are in/out of focus otherwise your concept won't work. If everything is important use a narrow depth of field to ensure everything is sharp. The size of each object, where they're positioned and how much of the frame each element takes up should be thought about too as if something doesn't look right, it'll change a great concept into something that's not really understood.

Lead The Eye Through The Photo

Another great thing about using various interest points in your image is they can lead the eye on a path through the photograph. For more tips on composition take a look at Pete's previous article: Beginners' guide to composition.

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