all Army pictorial photography. If a photograph doesn't say something, then
it's not a good photograph. This is true of all photographs, not just those
used by the Army. Keep in mind that any of the principles and techniques of
composition discussed in this lesson can be ignored, but only if doing so
serves to make the message you intend to send clearer, more specific, or
With that in mind, there are several basic principles which most often
lead to well composed photographs. They can't all be used all the time, but
some of them are present in every picture.
Almost all good photographs are basically simple.
Simplicity means that the photograph contains no extraneous or pointless
elements - or at least as few as possible.
It also means that a picture
doesn't try to tell too much. To explain, suppose you were told to take a
picture of a portable field wire switchboard in a tactical setting.
this is a fairly small board that sits on a field table or packing case and
is operated by one soldier.
It's usually located in a company headquarters
in a support area because it's not designed to move around a lot. You find
one set up outside a tent in a supply yard headquarters.
(1) First of all, you probably wouldn't take an overall picture of
the entire supply area and all the stockpiled items there, with the board
almost invisible because it's so small. The fact that this particular board
is located in a supply yard is probably not important. There are many types
of places that would be equally logical to find this switchboard, and a
supply yard is only one of them. And the small size of the switchboard's
image would make it difficult for someone looking at the picture to realize
what it was you were trying to tell them about; they might just think it was
a picture of a supply yard and let it go at that.
(2) So you simplify. You move in close to be sure that there is no
question that the switchboard is what the picture is about.
choose a camera angle to show that the board is outdoors, that it is located
near a tent, that there is a camouflage net in use nearby, and that the
operator is wearing combat equipment. You could move closer and eliminate
the soldier and the tent.
However, if you move too close, the photo may
become so simple that the message is lost. If you showed an extreme close-
up of the switchboard so that its surroundings were not visible, the goal of
showing a typical field setting would be lost and the photo would fail to
send the message you intended.