Teaching Materials - Exercise

Composition series (4) The chaotic world

Name of Artist Educator: Thomas Lin
Excercise Category: Photographer's eye

The world is complicated. Photography is a way for us to understand the universe.

Concept / Inspiration:

Many beginners of photographers would forget the focus when they shoot photos. There are no clear themes in the photos. This may be because of the lack of knowledge on photo composition as well as the understanding of the subject. In order to allow the beginners to pay attention to their focus, Lin suggests students start to observe the world with the five elements, i.e. characters, objects, natural scene, artificial scene and events. This could allow the students to focus on one single element when they take pictures of a scene. They should try to decompose the world with photography and understand it.


  1. To enhance students’ understanding of the subjects they shoot.
  2. To train students ’skill of composition.

Materials / Equipment:

  • Camera


At school

Workshop Description:

  1. To decompose the complicated world into five pure elements, i.e. characters, objects, natural scene, artificial scene and events.
  2. The requirement of the picture: Photos should portray only one of the elements clearly. The image has to focus on one element only.
  3. It is hoped that the exercise could allow student to learn how to pay attention to what they try to capture when they shoot.
  4. Students sharing and discussion. The instructor takes the discussion as an important element of learning as he believes learning takes place during discussion. The discussion would focus on students’ selections, i.e. “Why would you choose this to represent it instead of the others?”

Note 1: Students need to have basic knowledge on photographic composition. Therefore this exercise could be arranged as the second half of Thomas Lin’s Series of composition.

Expected Outcome:

There are more than five elements in our world. Most of the time, these elements appear at the same time, which is hard to be distinguished. Therefore, there is greater need for students to decompose it. They are encouraged to understand the subject better before shooting and obtain good skills in composition that could help portraying the focus.。

Actual Outcome:

Students were unable to clearly display one single element. Most of the time, there were two or more elements. They tended to subjectively give meaning to the subject being shot or over-read the image, i.e students need to explain verbally and excessively to the audience for their reading. They were unable to represent the theme directly. The instructor pointed out that images that could communicate well are those which audience is able to read the message within seconds simply by look at the visuals instead of excessive thinking. Lin then asked, “Is common sense restraining our ability to read images?”

Students were not close enough to the subject when they were shooting for “events”, for example the happenings in the wet market. There were a lot of people and objects appearing on the same photo. It is hard to represent the events. Most of the events are man-made. While people are often included in the “event” photos, students need to make use of composition to control the focus of the photo that emphasises the event.


Students’ works:

Alex Fok﹕
Some students did not agree this is about character since the man appeared so small in the photo. This is the problem of composition which Lin always emphasises.
alex 4

【Artificial Scene】
alex 5

【Natural Scene】
alex 2  alex

alex 3

Ruth Cheung﹕

【Artificial Scene】

【Natural Scene】

Although it shares the same subject with 【Character】, the composition and lights on the image shift the focus.


Ng Yee Jun
One student reflected that this photo represented mood rather than character. But the photographer explained feelings was the most important element of human being.

【Artificial Scene】



Student Feedback:

“Event does not necessarily involve man. It could be represented just by time.”