The nearly finished Berlin Palace


A walk around a tourist attraction, several different image messages from the same subject. To illustrate how different thoughts behind the image message lead to very different photos.

Even everyday pictures have a message

Different image messages from the same subject – that's what this article is about. The castle is representative for countless other subjects that you will encounter on your travels, excursions or wherever. The extensive baroque building, restored from the ground up with a contrasting modern facade on one side, was not quite finished at the time the photos were taken, and still had a lot of construction work going on around it.

The example photos illustrate for beginners how photos have a statement, a message – even casually taken ones. They want to encourage you to think more consciously about what is important to you when you take a photo and how you can translate it into a picture. With example subjects for which you don't have to climb a mountain before sunrise, but which are photographed en masse on trips and journeys.

The Berlin Palace at a glance

To start with, I would like to show readers an overview of the main subject. This is already an image message and a task for image composition: for the image on the website, show the entire huge facade in as little space as possible. Shots from the corners show two sides of the building and two photos are enough to show all four sides. Four photos, one for each side would take up too much space here.

It takes some movement and trial and error to find the best spot at each corner with as an unobstructed view, as far as possible. Later I chose the appropriate pair of photos from two opposite corners.

Like all the other photos on this page, they are technically unexciting – taken with a good compact camera without any special settings and only cropped afterwards.

Berliner Schloss, West- und Nordfassade
Berliner Schloss, Ost- und Südfassade

The palace in the heart of Berlin

The location of the palace in the middle of Berlin's centre with many other touristy subjects around it is an obvious pictorial statement. It would be appropriate and typical for a visitor who wants to take a souvenir photo of a walk through the centre and has not just had a tunnel view onto the palace itself.

Berlin Palace with river Spree and Deutscher Dom
Berlin Palace with Lustgarten

Transforming this into pictures: The Spree flows past on two sides of the castle and opposite is a green area with the German Cathedral. Accordingly, I looked for a location from which these additional picture elements can be seen well next to the castle and disturbing elements such as a wide road and the construction site are not visible. Then you can give these complementary picture elements some space. An excursion boat, people passing by who animate the picture are welcome.

To show the greenery in the foreground, it was most suitable to walk quite far away from the castle and climb some stairs to get a higher point of view. If you want to take such photos during a walk without taking detours, watch out to hold up your camera at the appropriate moment, at a suitable spot where you are passing anyway. Or suggest to your companion, ”Let's walk a little curve there...“

The construction site

If you want to emphasise how the castle is still under construction, give the elements belonging to the construction site more space in your picture. The example picture above shows barges and a crane in the foreground – deliberately cropped so that they are clearly visible at about half the size of the castle, but do not dominate the picture. It is not meant to be a photo with the title ”A barge in front of the Berlin Castle“, but ”The Berlin Castle under construction“.

Note also the difference between the two photos here and the ones at the top of the page. The photos further up show the same side of the facade with the main portal. However the different location and cropping make the crane and the barges disappear, as do the red and white barriers.

The disruptive effect of the construction site can also become a picture statement – photos don't always have to be ”nice“. When the photos were taken, it obstructed the view of and blocked access to the castle. With a barrier large in the foreground, this becomes obvious, so a memory of ”we couldn't get in there“ could look like this.

The historical facade

Now to the actual palace as the subject of the picture, its elaborate and completely rebuilt facade catches the eye. But "the baroque façade" is too general, still no help in the image composition. Go a little deeper, consider what is special about it.

Two possibilities out of many are: The long rows of uniformly decorated windows and the different decorations per storey. The former can be conveyed by an oblique view that brings the windows closer together in the picture; the latter becomes obvious by a small detail that shows only a few windows per storey. Notice how much more obvious the different decorations per storey are in the second picture.

Old and new

The unusual juxtaposition of old and new also suggests itself for a photo; it already stands out in the overview photos. If you find it particularly interesting, concentrate on it and try to fade out everything else. Here are two of many conceivable possibilities.

What does all this mean for your photos?

Image composition and dealing with the image message can improve all your photos, even the everyday ones.

At the beginning it needs thought, practice and above all critical observation of your own pictures. But little by little you will do it almost automatically and you will enjoy your photos more. You just have to keep finding an answer to the questions ”Why am I taking this photo?“, ”What do I want to say with it?“ Be conscious of what you personally like about a subject and focus on that.

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