"Good composition is always determined by good selection. Fine painting is a matter of proper taste and judgement in choosing the motive, accepting some parts, discarding others, and making changes or alterations throughout the procedure. Selection, like all factors in art, is difficult to define or separate from the composite process in painting. Judgement varies according to the subject, type of composition, and the viewpoint of the painter. Selection is never the same in two instances; a choice in one case would not do in another. Therefore, in order to develop good taste and judgement in selecting, it is necessary to develop the feeling of artistic unity. If we can fully appreciate harmony in pictorial design, we more easily select the parts and judge the measure of influences that create it." ~Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne
The original photo on the left was taken by one of my current students, Debbie Freerksen. The composition is good to begin with.
Cropping out the large tree mass on the left and warming the trees and grasses made it stronger, as shown in the adjusted image in the middle. On the right is the demo painting I created from that image.
Another photo taken by one of my current students, Karen Dodson, is interesting but has limited values, and the grasses and the field are too horizontal. I cropped much of the foreground and then angled the grasses slightly to give the comp more depth, drawing the viewer into the picture.. Changing the sky and the temperature makes the composition more interesting.
It was a slightly overcast day when I took this photo. All of the values were similar, and the predominance of green was not too exciting. I added some clouds and again changed the temperature and intensity of the greens, and cropped some of the foreground.
This photo is from Imp Lake in Wisconsin. Similar to the previous one, the greens and the sky are are a bit bland. Adding clouds in the sky and keeping it cooler, and then changing the temperature of the greens and cropping the foreground resulted in a more dynamic composition.
In this photo taken in northern Wisconsin, I warmed the rocks in the foreground, but the difference between the warm rocks and the cool greens in the background created a conflict. Adding some warmer color to the background, and simplifying the background elements created a more cohesive composition.
With some thought and understanding of the elements of composition, even a good photograph can be improved upon, remembering that "good composition is always determined by good selection."