Varying your composition

On a crisp, abnormally warm winter day, I decided to photograph a local amusement park that had been closed and made into an art center.

Assignments like this are challenging because you have to try to do something different from everybody else. You have to go underneath the obvious scene (and its parts) and think about the meaning of what you see.  For example, does the building look abandoned and sad? Does it make you feel lonely?  Does a sign naming the park remind you of happy times? Does the carousel connote the laughter of children? By approaching the scene with an understanding of what it means to you, you can change the way you portray the park and it elements.

Glen Echo park entrance

There are other ways that you can make your pictures alive. Look for shapes and lines, the quality of light, for repeating patterns, shots from far and near (or wide angle and telephoto),  parts of things that give the whole meaning, reflections – remember you can photograph anything you see- light and dark, textures.

Glen echo pattern

Glen Echo closeupGlen Echo Park

Sometimes people take 10, 20, or 30 pictures the same way over and over again. They stand with the camera at eye level, not moving, and go blam, blam, blam.  To change this boring approach, you must move into different positions when you take the picture. The result will be a new way of viewing the subject that you hadn’t thought about before. Eventually you will learn from your movements and be able to predict how you will change the impact of the photo. Repeat after me: up, down, over, under, past, by (past and by mean alongside an object like a wall). These changes add depth and impact to your photos. Note the grass shot from under the pattern of the mirrors on the white building which was top shot past, and the carousel pieces shot down and far and near. Note also that shooting up gives importance to the subject while shooting down diminishes it.

Glen Echo grass

Next time I will shoot more up and down and also demonstrate the impact of Lightroom which I used to edit these pictures.

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About Janet Ochs Lowenbach

Janet Ochs Lowenbach has been a creative photographer and writer for over 25 years. Her work includes a full-time stint in health care (kidney transplant, open heart surgery, migrant health, shell fish sanitation, environmental health, and medical technology) and freelance articles on social and travel issues in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and Bethesda Magazine. She ran a family portrait business along with event photography and teaching in schools and recreation centers. She also is a writer and editor. Her goal: to explore new ways of seeing.


  1. I would have made shot #1 as a vertical and the dark blob at upper left is annoying; shot #2 has a serious case of converging verticals and the top of the sign is cut off; shot #3 has that white blob at lower right; shot #4 you have cut off the left side of the roof and shot #5, again, I would have made a vertical shot and cropped out the house at right.

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