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Dash of Inspiration: Composition – Subject Matter

April 8, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Composition: Subject Matter

I thought it might be helpful to have a series that addresses each (or many) of the areas listed in GCU’s Submission Guidelines. I’ll to offer some visuals and perhaps more details that might be beneficial to an better understanding of these categories. Today we’ll start this series off with the first main grouping of the Submission Guidelines which is:

COMPOSITION: Subject Matter

The Submission Guidelines state this:

The all-important part of a painting or photograph to which all other elements are supportive in that they do not generate distraction. Competing portions of a painting or photograph can diminish the power, intensity, or preferred focus on the center of interest/subject.  Declines may include, but are not limited to:  eyes being closed, poor angle, wilted or dead petals, expressions which do not suit the category, etc.

So let’s talk about subject matter.

Expressions – it should make perfect sense that the expression of the subject needs to fit the feeling of the card and the category, yet I’ve seen cards with a sad or frightened subject put in the birthday category with no effort on the artist’s part to create a verse tying the expression of the subject to the birthday category. It’s really simple, your subject matter needs to speak to the the verse and category. If you choose a photograph that meets all the other qualifications of a good photo, but has closed eyes or a bad expression, then you need to play off expression and write a verse to suit the category.  Read the body language and expressions of your subjects and work within those parameters. When it comes to photos of our own pets, not all pets are photogenic and just because our fur-babies are the most adorable creatures on earth … to us … that does not necessarily make them great greeting card subjects.

Below is an example I’ve seen a lot. The expression on this dog is one that would work for missing you, I’m sorry, sympathy, etc., yet I’ve seen this type of image used for EVERY category and it’s just not appropriate.


Note: Photo courtesy of David Wagner

Poor Angle – This is different from Perspective. Poor angle refers to images like the one below which give the impression of being too lazy to chose a better shooting position. There are exceptions to this rule, but as always you need to understand when those exceptions apply. Every time you photograph a subject, you must look at all possible angles and chose that which is best for the subject, even if that means getting on the ground. Just because you could not achieve a better angle due to the limitations of the subject or environment, does not mean that it’s good enough to meet marketability standards for a greeting card.


Note: Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

Wilted or Dead Petals, etc. –  In the example below, even if lighting and clarity had been perfect with the background distractions eliminated, this photograph of a rose would still be declined for subject matter. When choosing images for greeting cards, one edge on one petal or any other imperfection such as holes, bugs, etc., will most likely get your floral photograph declined. This is not limited to floral images however, imperfections such as dead leaves on the ground, tear stains on a pet photo, brown spots on a piece of fruit and food photographs that are not mouth-watering could all be declined due to Subject Matter.  Many of these imperfections can be cloned out  by the experienced digital artist. Learn more about Floral Photography here.


Note: Photo courtesy: Sharon Apted

Next week I’ll try and offer the same types of examples for the section Composition: Balance of Elements.  Till next week, I hope I’ve inspired you to go look through your store and see if you can weed out any images that have poor subject matter.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2013 9:26 am

    Some very sensible points here Doreen, and although they are quite simple things to remember, very easy to overlook in the eagerness to get the card created. Thank you, Angela

  2. April 8, 2013 1:24 pm

    Yes, once again you share your logical experience in an easy to understand way. Thank you for helping us be better! Trish

  3. April 8, 2013 2:45 pm

    Thank you Doreen – I’m new to GCU and your series will be very useful as a supplement to the articles on wiki.

    • April 8, 2013 3:08 pm

      Welcome to GCU Rosie and you are welcome. You may also want to bookmark my Resource page on my website where you’ll find additional links and links to all of the Dash of Inspiration posts sorted by category for easy reference.


  4. April 12, 2013 2:27 am

    Great examples Doreen. I’ll share a few pet photos that are good examples of Expressions and making it work with the occasion and verse.

    First these are excellent photos to begin with. Artist Micklyn Le Feuvre has done an A+ job leveraging the expression with a clever and fitting verse for the occasion to make it work.

    See these two cards in particular:

    Great job Micklyn (and adorable cats)!

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