Elements of Photographic Composition – Form

Moving on to our third element – you might ask yourself what’s the difference between shape (element #2) and form?  In a nutshell, form has three dimensions whereas shape has only two.  So how does one show a three dimensions in a two dimension photograph?  By using the sun to create shadows that show depth.

I’m struggling to find shots that I think depict this characteristic. Mostly because I tend to take a lot of my shots when it’s overcast and thus there are no shadows. Or I’m in a gorge somewhere – still no shadows. There are a few shadows here but I think the overall shot with the lake in the background would show dimension with or without the foreground shadows.

Storm clouds rolling in

Libe Slope at Cornell University


Not sure this meets any of the definitions of form – I’m really kind of struggling with this element.

Playground at Taughannock State Park

I think another way to show dimension might be to show movement. I’m probably reaching a little bit here but I think this shadowless shot shows three dimensions because of the water’s movement.

Triple Falls

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Or there’s no shadow here but the top of the Bank of America tower is lost in the clouds!

Bank of America Tower

So what’s become apparent to me here is two things: 1. I need to do more shooting in the early mornings and late afternoons so that I can use side lighting to its best advantage. 2. I need to start paying better attention to light and shadows.


Next element – texture.  I’m looking forward to this one!!


One thought on “Elements of Photographic Composition – Form

  1. Living in an area that’s overcast much of the time sure makes it more difficult to do much with light and shadows! Although I wish I knew more about the elements of composition, I think your Buttermilk shot above definitely shows three dimensions (and is a beautiful shot, to boot!)

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