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Photographers usually get it all wrong. Composition is all about the broad, underlying and most basic organization of the larger elements in your scene. Composition is not about details or texture. A strong photo is not about the subject matter. What draws us into a good image are the basic shapes, contrasts and colors that catch our eyes.

In each school, the psychologists tested children from two age groups: 4 to 5 and 9 to 10.

If you shoot and don't really know why, your photos probably fall into this class. As observed, careless shooters will usually come up with an OK shot every so often by pure luck, but the only way to create consistently good work is to pay attention.

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The tests showed that white children, as a whole, responded with a high rate of what researchers call "white bias," identifying the color of their own skin with positive attributes and darker skin with negative attributes. Spencer said even black children, as a whole, have some bias toward whiteness, but far less than white children.

Even the tiniest distraction is a huge distraction.

For the particularly dense, when I say I'm not a mind reader, I mean that of course I know you've sent me a snapshot of a cat or a kid or a sunset. So? Why should I care? When I say "what does it mean," I mean does it show glee? Elation? Does it make me laugh? Does it make me soil my own pants over how beautiful it is?

Katie's 4th Birthday Party. (, .)

I always find something nice to say because that's the way I am, even though I'm usually thinking "What a careless idiot. Why would he think anyone else cares about this photo if he didn't care about it when he snapped it in the first place? What is this photo supposed to mean? What am I, a mind reader?"

Moving an inch or two, I got this instead:

Composition also deals with how a viewer's eye enters and explores the image. Our eyes are first attracted to the lightest or most contrasty areas, and explore out from there. Don't give the eye any lines that lead it out of the image; you never want to break the frame. Darken the edge of the frame if a line might lead an eye out, but remember that lines also can lead eyes in. We Americans read from left to right; other cultures read differently. You want to keep viewer's eyes from wandering out of the picture. Darkening the edges and lightening your intended points of interest help.

Katie's 4th Birthday Party. (, .)

I hate it when strangers send me crappy, carelessly composed photos and ask me "are these any good?" The key word is careless: the shooter never paid any attention before he shot. No one cares if they're sharp and well exposed (every camera does that automatically today); what's important is what effort you put into composing the picture.

Painters need to dream all this up in their heads. Painting is tough.

Pay rapt attention to your composition while shooting. Forget tech while you're shooting. I may obsess about tech all day while writing this website, but when I shoot, I think about nothing technical at all.