The Golden Mean within the photo of Shannon Purdy titled “On the Rocks.”

This is the final element of composition I concentrated on within my photo of Shannon titled “On the Rocks.”

Principals of composition

One of the most difficult concepts in visual art is the Golden Mean also called the Golden Ratio.  The Golden Mean has been used in the composition for centuries. It is a design principle based on the ratio of 1 to 1.618. The Golden Mean can assist in creating images that have a strong composition, which is perfectly balanced from a viewer’s perspective. Creating a photograph that is most pleasing to the eye using the Golden Mean can be difficult. We naturally prefer to look at an image that is balanced and harmonized, and the Golden Mean does this. The Golden Mean/Ratio is actually a mathematical term and can be broken down into simple lines. If you were to put points on a horizontal line A and B you can better visualize the Golden Mean. If line A was longer than Line B by almost double B you would notice that nearly 2XB would nearly equally segment A. Therefore this would nearly put a vertical line bisecting your original horizontal line on the third of the frame. The balance of this ratio is found in many things in nature. The most prominent is the human body. I believe this is why it is such a pleasing and strong visual queue to viewers when utilized.

Notes on this image

Shannon Purdy “On the Rocks” by JW Purdy

In this example, Shannon’s head is in the first lower left section. The next section moving up and to the right contains her left breast and is completed by the junction of her thigh and torso. The final section moving in the same direction is filled with Shannon’s thigh, which travels the length of the final section ending at her knee.

We are getting close to the end of the month and I’m working on a couple of different new tasks. I will be sending out my newsletter at the end of the month and encourage you to sign up. (

Next week we will be discussing a new photo. I am trying to get a video together which I hope will demonstrate these concepts a little easier. I’m going to put a few together and see how I do. If they come out okay I will post them online but if not forget I ever said anything about it. I am really going to give it my best so we can cover more ground in one lesson and I can describe the concepts we are working with better. I will also try to film a shoot or two and let everyone see how I work with models and give you a sense of the flow of a shoot.

Thank you and see you next time,

JW Purdy

I really appreciate your approach to displaying the figure and how you take the time to explain why a composition works. I look forward to your future VLOGS and I’m sure I will be able to grow as I’ve just started my own journey into digital photography. I am curious about how you arrange certain outdoor shoots. Do you have to get permits, or is it a matter of learning/knowing the area and having help to look out for you and your model?

Thank you so much for your question. My blog is changing back to the way it was in 2009. I have deleted all those old posts but I thought it was important for you to know. I will be breaking down the elements of composition in my photos week by week. It will take a while for me to build up a good amount of posts but I hope you will keep reading and enjoy them.

As for shooting outdoors, you really need to check your local laws. I’m not in a position to give you any advice regarding the legality of working with models nude outdoors. We live in south Texas and as long as you are not causing mayhem it is allowed as far as I know. Now the problem comes in with what is defined as mayhem. Depending on the officer or the judge you go before things could change drastically. Shannon and I have been caught once and it is a funny story we share from time to time.

We were working at an abandoned foundry after a studio shoot and were almost done. Shannon loves sunflowers and wanted to get a picture in a field of them within the property fence. With my back turned to the entrance and looking in the viewfinder to compose the shot things were going wrong without my knowledge. As soon as I pushed the shutter I noticed Shannon’s expression change. I lowered the camera and she was pointing behind me. I turned around to see a Houston police officer approaching. I reached into my back pocket and threw Shannon her shorts and shirt. I started toward the officer with a big grin and extended my hand to greet him. We shook hands and he said we were okay and could continue. I told him I had taken my last shot and we were done. We talked briefly and he said he was only worried about our safety since the property was know for the amount of homeless people that live there. He told us to be very careful when shoot in and around the area. Shannon and I packed up our stuff and started home. We were very near to downtown Houston but the road you have to travel is very hard to see. As we drove out we saw several police cars pass the road, then back up, and drive down to the site. Laughing I told her she would have been the most well guarded model in Houston that day.

This situation could have gone very differently though. The officer could have decided we where causing mayhem by shooting nude outdoors and given us a ticket. Depending on the judge we could have received a hefty fine or even jail time. All this being said know the law and be very careful.

I would recommend you scout around the area very well to insure the model and you will be safe while shooting. Know what animals live in the area and what the risks are if you run into one. Don’t be offensive and be mindful of what is around you. Don’t shoot near a school or church accidently. This I feel would really get you into trouble and is just rude. Don’t shoot in an area where you could cause and accident. We have all seen cool photos of models on overpasses. You really need to be careful with this since you could cause and accident by distracting the people below you driving at freeway speeds. Lookouts are great and there is safety in numbers. Make sure you explain what you are intending to accomplish by having a lookout to your model. Always invite your model to bring an escort even if the shoot is indoors. A red flag goes up as soon as you tell a model no escorts. Never bring your inappropriate buddy as a lookout. For one, they don’t make good lookouts and also the model will not appreciate it. Don’t be surprised your model goes and tell all of their friends you’re a creep.

In closing I found a really good site regarding this a few years ago. You can read more about public nudity by going to I am not a legal expert so please consult a qualified person in your area for questions regarding the laws that could impact you.

Thanks and hope you come back for the next post,

JW Purdy

My Nude Year: Day 18 of 365



Shannon had a headache today and so I tried to make the shoot go as quickly and easily as possible. She suffers from migraines and the weather must be about to change because she has had a pain for three days now. I cleared off the window seat and shot in natural daylight without the use of a fill flash. I didn’t want to put any more light on her than I had to. I can’t wait for summer to get here and then we can do some shooting outdoors.

Thank you for your interest in our project and please sign up to the newsletter here

JW Purdy

My Nude Year: Day 17 of 365

My nude year – Shannon Purdy Day 17 by JW Purdy

Shannon teased her hair up today and put on some stockings for a little difference in the photo. We used a two light setup with the main light pointed at her face and the other light pointed at the wall behind her. The light pointing at the wall gives Shannon a little separation from the background. Our equipment is getting older and we are nearing the end of my camera’s life. I am going to put a Kickstarter campaign together to hopefully get some much-needed supplies to finish our project.

Thank you for your interest in our project and please sign up to the newsletter here

JW Purdy

My Nude Year: Day 16 of 365

My nude year – Shannon Purdy Day 16 by JW Purdy

Shannon was very tired tonight. During the week she goes to bed way too late and then turns around and gets up really early for work. By the time Friday gets around she is exhausted and just wants to go to bed early. Before leaving work she wrote me and asked if we could shoot as soon as she got home allowing her to go to bed early. We started planning for the setup within a few minutes after she walked in the door. Tonight went really quickly so she could take a break. The shoot only lasted for 30 minutes or so and that includes setting everything up. I try to make it as easy on her as possible. Tomorrow will be a different story. Well rested, I will ask her for a little more preparation and try to capture a shot involving more setup time.

Thank you for your interest in our project and please sign up to the newsletter here

JW Purdy

My Nude Year: Day 15 of 365

My nude year – Shannon Purdy Day 15 by JW Purdy

After a late meeting,  Shannon and I set up
for a silhouette photo. I place a light stand behind her
facing the wall as she turned to give me a profile view.
We kept the primary circle of light small to give you a
good view of her curves rather than a full body image.
Shannon thinks the circle pattern on the rear wall
resembles the moon, which is funny since I watched
Apollo 13 today.

JW Purdy

Question about self-shot photos

Fellow artist,

Sorry but I’m not understanding your message. Please correct me if I’m wrong but what I think you are asking is for me to view your photos, which I have, and give you my impression on which one of your images you should turn into a drawing. If this is not the case please disregard the rest of this message.

I know this will sound harsh but once long ago someone cared enough to tell me the same thing and it inspired me to become better at photography. I see no elements of composition in your own self-shot photos. They appear as just pictures of yourself nude without any forethought. Ouch, I know it hurts but it’s for a good reason. First, self-shot images are very difficult to pull off. I have from time to time attempted the task and it is much harder than it looks. When you sit down before you shoot, which I hope you do, do you think about how you want the final photo to look? If your answer is, no, you need to start. On to our second point of this discussion, find or invent an image you want to create. Know exactly how it is going to look when it is finished. Take the time to rearrange the scene just as you have visualized it. Setup your gear and get everything framed the way you want. Please remember to include the rules of composition in your planning and framing process. Even if you just keep an eye out for the basic elements such as the Rule of Thirds or the Rule of Odds, it will make a drastic improvement in your images. Once everything is framed the way you want all you have to do is light the scene and push the shutter. If you don’t have a remote shutter release you can use the timer function on your camera or employ someone you don’t mind seeing you naked. After this, you are ready to post your photo to the web or turn them into a painting/drawing as you desire.

With regard to the drawings you already have on display, some of them are very nice. I have an eye for angles and so the images with several bends in the legs and arms really grab my attention. A lot of work I find myself gravitating too has many implied triangles in it. I love looking at set’s of lines and finding all the triangles, it’s like where’s Waldo for adults. I would like to see some foreground and/or background interest in your work, but really it’s your art and not mine. I wish I could draw or paint but I’m found lacking in these departments.

I hope this message helps you and that I haven’t overstepped my bounds. Have a wonderful day and keep working. Please take a look at my blog as some of my more recent posts may help you see and find an element of composition in a frame. You can view my blog at I will include a few self-shot photos I attempted a long time ago for your review.

JW Purdy

JW Purdy self-portrait play (On the backs of slaves)-1
JW Purdy self-portrait play-71

My Nude Year: Day 14 of 365

My nude year – Shannon Purdy Day 14 by JW Purdy

We decided to change things up a little tonight. I used a
two light set instead of a single light source. I wanted
Shannon to nearly blending into the background and so I
placed a light off to the left of the photo pointed straight
back at the wall. The second light was pointed directly at
Shannon. With the background as well as Shannon lit the
photo takes on a low contrast look. It makes her eyes and
hair really stand out and gives a great sense of focus to
the photo.

JW Purdy