Fan Ho – 9 Composition Techniques. Part Two.

2. Light Edges

Light Edges are very clear, defined strips of light contrasting with a shadow. These feature regularly in Ho’s images to highlight what is usually a small human subject. The size of the subject removes the “human” face and enables the viewer to project themselves into being the subject (IMHO).

These Light Edges are most often created by human built structures, readily available in most higher rise cities. Finding the right time of day for the best sun angle is the challenge. In Melbourne, I am often surprised by what time of day is best for creating these hard edged, clearly defined shadows.


3. The Intersection of Light and Architectural Lines

Ho often uses a combination of Light Edges and clear Architectural Lines in images.

In the first image, there are three main things happening in the composition.

The Light Edge is intersecting with the strong lines of the stairs.

The lines intersect on a diagonal plane which give a strong dynamic feel to the image.

Finally, the subjects are moving in different directions along the diagonal plane, towards the outer edges of the image, continuing to contribute to the dynamism of the image.

There are multiple parallel lines in the image, running along diagonal planes, strengthening the image.

The second image uses a strong diagonal Light Edge which intersects with a ninety degree Architectural Line of the building edge that the subject is standing against. The two lines draw focus to the subject – it is pretty hard to miss!

The subject is beautifully isolated by the solid blocks of tones.

Both images benefit from the simplicity of the building tones. There is very little visual clutter to distract the viewer from the subjects.


3. Using Simple Tones of Buildings as Backgrounds

Fan Ho recognises and uses Simple Tones as a way to isolate and focus on subjects.

In both images, the tones of the buildings are clearly defined, solid blocks of colour. The patchwork feel of the second image is consistent with the Simple Tone theory as each “patch” is a clearly defined block. Simple Tones simplify the visual information being presented to the viewer, making the compositional tool being used more recognisable.

In the first image, the use of Framing is highlighted by the Simple Tones and the overall proportion of the frame to the image. It is relatively small, and isolated. The sign in the bottom right corner provides a sense of balance to the image, and the word “private” provide a delicate juxtaposition to the people in the frame.

The patchwork of Simple Tones in the second image are still clean and clear blocks. The subject is highlighted against one of the blocks, and Long Shadow is used to draw more attention. The patchwork is not visually distracting due to the Simple Tones.

You can read Part One of this series here.

Part Three

Part Four

All images featured in this post are the copyright works of photographer Fan Ho.

Fan Ho’s Website is Here.

Buy Fan Ho’s “Hong Kong Yesterday” Here.


6 Responses to “Fan Ho – 9 Composition Techniques. Part Two.”

  1. Reply March 1, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    TCan I please have the locations for the intersection of light and architectural structures? Is it in Melbourne? I am studying at RMIT and really love these locations 🙂


    • Hi Rachael, – sorry for taking so long to get back to you! The images in this post are all from Hong Kong. And from the 50’s and 60’s – so I am not sure how many locations would still exist. For hard edge lighting in melbourne look for a combination of both going at the right time of day when the shadows are being cast (early or late in the day) and for areas where there are only slits and slivers for the light to stream through (melbourne laneways are a great place to start). LMK if I can offer any more assistance.



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