Design Analysis: Photography

Principles of Photography

Photography is an art, indeed. Just knowing how to handle the camera in order to capture an interesting image is a feat that I struggle with. However, with some basic settings and the following principles, photos can come to life with interest and beauty, as well as tell a remarkable story visually.

I’ve borrowed three images from James Neeley Photography to help illustrate the principles with professional skills and then I’ll try to follow the same principles with my own photos.

*Disclaimer: I recently purchased a nice, new camera for an upcoming trip. It was supposed to arrive yesterday, but it did not. My images will be taken with my phone instead (because I also don’t live in Rexburg for the rental to work for me today). Believe me, I don’t think my skills would be much better with a real camera. Especially not in comparison to James’ work!

James Neeley Photography

James Neeley is a freelance photographer and educator. Specializing in landscape, nature, and architectural photography his work has been recognized and published locally, nationally, and internationally. James loves to teach. He has conducted photographic workshops throughout the western United States with Mountain High Workshops and Perfect Light Camera. He also teaches HDR and Photoshop courses. From:

Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

Amazing, right?

rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a powerful principle of design because it effectively uses the Fibonacci Sequence, or Golden Ratio. Here, James Neeley captured the principle quite literally.


my rule of thirds

My photo lacks artful composition, but illustrates the rule of thirds by dividing the space into nine sections and placing the focal point at one of the intersections.

Leading Lines

leading lines

Beautifully composed, James Neeley uses the leading lines in the landscape to draw the eye of the viewer through the photograph, never trapping or leading into the corners.


my leading linesJames Neeley’s photo used the lines to allow the eye to travel through the landscape, I followed his example to a degree in that I looked for lines in the landscape that were strong visually, but instead attempted to allow the lines to draw the eye to a spot in the distance.

Depth of Field

depth of field

In this simple shot of the wheat, a single tare is in sharp focus while the rest of the image falls into a fuzzy background to which is enough contrast to create a visually interesting image.

20170513_145246my depth of field

Lucky for me, it is springtime and the flowers in bloom on trees provide an easy reference for depth of field photography. I was careful to make sure that the flowers remained in focus and that everything else fell out of focus and into the background.


As I said before, photography is definitely an art. Following these principles certainly help a photograph become much more compositionally sound than just an ordinary snapshot, but there are other elements that take the photo to the next level of becoming extraordinary. Photography doesn’t come easily to me, but I understand the principles and with them, occasionally I get lucky!


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