Still thinking about composition. Half the frame is content the other half is non-tent.

This is a photo of novel writer, singer and sometimes political candidate for Texas Governor, Kinky Friedman. He's an Austin icon. I had a good time wrangling him into the studio and getting him to sit still (almost impossible) and usually I talk about the gear I use to shoot something like this or how I lit the shot. But lately I've been more interested in composition.

As I examine more and more of my older, square compositions I can see that there is a balance between the amount of space my subjects occupy and how much is left over. It seems, usually, to be a 50:50 balance between the two, which much make sense to some part of my brain.

The bonus, for me in this photo, is the wonderful diagonal of Kinky's black hat. Nothing I planned but maybe most portrait moves are better explained by the book, "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell....




  1. I do love that square format! The square can be a challenge to fill some time, the frame seems to have an energy all its own. As to Malcolm’s book, there is a part of the portrait process that I cannot explain well. It’s as if I can see the images presenting itself before me. Things start lining up and then, without warning, it falls into place. It doesn’t always happen but when it does it’s a bit of an aha moment. Funny, the harder I try the quieter the feeling.

  2. Almost always learn something new from your posts. Thanks, teach!

  3. You took an awesome portrait of one of my very favorite independent thinkers! And yes, there's a lot of yin and yang in composition...

  4. Love this one. A perfect expression of the Kinkster.

  5. I really appreciate your recent emphasis on composition. I have been studying and concentrating on that -- along with subject itself -- and as I have a preferred kit, I spend little or no time on gear matters.

    I find this a really well balanced and pleasing portrait. Definitely a candidate for a book cover!

  6. I too love the square format. My usual setup for daily fun photography is Square Format B&W, find great joy in the results. Your 50:50 observation holds true for my portraits also. I need to re-read "Blink" as I really enjoyed it. I've gone from medium to severe GAS to simplified, minimalist gear and process. Keep bringing these thoughtful writings to us.

  7. A worthy portrait of Kinky, and as always great words to accompany it. Kinky fascinated my late father, who was first introduced to him through his entertaining, if not unusual, detective stories. My own introduction was through his music, which I would often find blasting through my father's stereo while we played pinball in his living room.

    While living in Austin I ran across Mr. Friedman only once, at Austin-Bergstrom, as he was existing a plane I was waiting for. One of those characters that you don't have to second guess yourself on identifying!

    I love shooting for square, it is outside my 3:2 comfort zone and often results in better compositions. I haven't often considered using 1:1 for portraits, but now you've got me thinking. As usual you make visiting your blog always worth the time.


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