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Getting out of our "templates"

I need your advise on this one.

Vietnamese boy hiding behind his mother

I took these photos this morning and I can’t make up my mind on which one to chose.

Originally I liked the first one, as it is quite original. I have done myself and have seen many time this kind of photo, and I thought the kid looking away was adding something different, and quite a good dynamic in the image, creating an opposite tension compared with the direction of the mum’s look.

This is what Michael Freeman calls “template” in hos books: using a photo or type of composition we know works to be quick to compose future photos. I call that “experience” but at the end I prefer Michael’s term.

But the more I look and the more I tend to like number 2. The look of the boy is more straight forward, and I understand about his feelings.

So I am asking you: which one do you prefer and for what reasons?

Below are more “templates” for this kind of shot.

Vietnamese boy hiding behind his older sister

portrait of 2 red dzao brothers in Sapa

I met these kids’s mum the day before and asked her if I could visit their house. She felt honored that I wanted to see the way she lives and told her neighbors I was coming. Everyone was well dressed and welcoming me, making things easy for me.

Hmong girl

portrait of a Lao ethnic boy

shy boy

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Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.


  1. Pip on March 13, 2014 at 3:48 am

    I like the second shot. I would have preferred the first if, in the second the boy didn’t have a wrinkled brow. By still having the wrinkled brow in the second shot he still has the look of uncertainty and even fear which he certainly has in shot one magnified by looking at maybe what is scaring him.

  2. Wendy vigenser on March 13, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I also like the second one. It looks like he is inviting yo u in and trying to communicate his fear with you. I think it allows the viewer to imagine or create a story.

  3. Dave on March 31, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I too like the second one. Though I think it would be improved even further if the mum was looking away, similar to the first of the ‘more templates’ shots. I believe this creates a greater connection with the child.

    Btw, I only stumbled upon your blog today. Absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Etienne on April 1, 2014 at 1:52 am

      Thanks Dave! Plenty of interesting things coming up in the future, keep in touch!

  4. Chris on April 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Etienne

    i like the first one – for me it is like catching the move of the head – the boy is afraid of something and is turnig to look at it. I’m starting to thing what was it, so photo make me wonder about situation, it is leaving something to think about even later when I don’t see the picture 😉
    For me the first one has some action 😉

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