How do you know what makes a great picture in terms of composition?

Annette Kim analyzes picture for ERIC KIM

I asked my sister ANNETTE KIM to deconstruct the compositions of one of my most famous pictures, the umbrella lady in Seoul. Annette incorporated Bauhaus design principles and the color palette of Piet Mondrian to better deconstruct the composition, to figure out what made it ‘work’.

If you want your own pictures analyzed visually, contact for commissions.

Step 1: Choose an image to deconstruct

The first step is to find an image you find powerful that you wish to deconstruct. In this case, it is my famous umbrella woman street photograph:

Intuitively, I know I like the picture. A combination of the leading lines, the negative space on the right of her which adds more ‘dynamic tension’, and the figure-to-ground component of the white woman against the black background.

Step 2: Draw the lines

The next step is to draw the lines you see in the image, in terms of the diagonals, the leading lines, and overall composition.

Annette has illustrated the leading and converging lines here in yellow:

Step 3: Analyze where your eyes are led

The purpose of composition and leading lines is to direct the eyes of your viewer.

Below, Annette has illustrated the tracking of our eyes in red:

Step 4: Repetition

The next step: analyze if your composition has ‘repetition’ of forms, such as the repeating of the red pillars in the picture below.

The reason why repetition works compositionally: it adds rhythm to your pictures, and creates a ‘beat’ (think of this as a musical analogy). Great music has a good best, rhythm, repetition, tempo, and pauses.

Step 5. Analyze the proportions of the image

Note the white boxes below, which segment the picture into different proportions. This is how an AI or algorithm might read your image:

The reason why we want to do this, is to find balance and dynamic tension in your picture. You can do this yourself to your own pictures by creating rectangle boxes that connect your diagonal lines.

Step 6: Abstract your image

This is where analyzing your images get really fun:

If I can abstract my images to just rectangles, and boxes, what would my picture look like?

This is Annette’s first step of abstraction, in the spirit of Piet Mondrian:

Step 7: Add Color

Now, add the primary colors of Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Here you can paint your picture, according to your own interpretation:

Final analysis

The final analysis of the image:

  1. The picture is great because it has dynamic diagonals and leading lines (outlined in white)
  2. The picture is great because it has a balance of forms

  3. The picture is great because it is simple yet elegant — simplicity in black and white and a single subject in all white, yet elegant from the umbrella, the soft light, and the repetition of forms in the background:

If you want your own pictures analyzed visually, contact for commissions.

Visualizations by ANNETTE KIM

Newest Visualization by Annette Kim available in the Haptic Shop

Don’t miss the newest free photography visualization “What to look for when shooting street photography” available now in the Haptic Shop.

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for Street Photography Series

HAPTIC presents the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for Street Photography Series — visualizations of essential photography lessons and tips by ANNETTE KIM. Annette researched, synthesized, and visualized the key parts of this series to present to you a fun, easy to read VISUALIZATION of photography fundamentals.

Newest Photography Visualizations

For a limited time, download the following FREE visualizations designed by Annette Kim. Keep these guides on your phone, tablet, computer to read on your commute, as reminders when shooting on the streets, and for daily inspiration. Download both full resolution PDFs by processing your free ‘order’ here. Don’t forget to check back regularly to see what new resources and visualizations we add to the page.

  • “How to Overcome Fears of Photographing Strangers”(11/2/2o17)
  • “What to Look For When Shooting in the Streets” (11/8/2017) New!
  • To receive the latest visualizations, exclusive content, access to books, presets and artistic information, join the free ERIC KIM NEWSLETTER.

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for Street Photography



Each VISUALIZATION is original artwork designed by Annette Kim, distilled from the ERIC KIM photography lessons and resources.



VITRUVIAN CAMERA is an homage to Leonardo da Vinci, and his passion of combining technology and art. By wearing VITRUVIAN CAMERA proudly on your chest, it will reveal your passion for photography — ‘painting with light.’

VITRUVIAN CAMERA is ARTWEAR — to inspire yourself everyday, to pay homage to the artistic masters of the past, and to also pave your own path in photography.

100% of the proceeds directly supports the artist.

VITRUVIAN CAMERA is an original artwork hand sketched by Annette Kim. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Annette researched the history and science of camera design in order to produce this conceptual camera.

Leonardo da Vinci’a “Vitruvian Man.”

The camera embodies the vision of the ‘ideal’ camera based on the rules of architecture and design:

Video Interview with Annette Kim

The Complete Works of Annette Kim

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When you join ERIC KIM NEWSLETTER, you will gain access to:

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Photography Composition 101

Dynamic Photography Composition 101


Dynamic Photography Composition Tips

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:

Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM


Learn compositional theory:

Compositional lessons from the masters of art

Composition lectures