[This post is an elaboration on the second point I made in my post of November 10, 2015,
Five ways to raise your photo IQ (Interest Quotient)]
The only thing your camera can’t and won’t do for you is COMPOSITION.
Maybe your two images have no more heady a message than “My Trip to Paris”. In one, your friend is dead center, looking stiff, the Eiffel Tower is growing directly out of the top of Friend’s head. In the other, Friend is off to the side, turned toward Eiffel looking back to you over a shoulder, Eiffel is in the distance. That would be a much more pleasing image than ‘tower-growing-out-of-head’. Add in that Friend is in focus and Eiffel is out of focus in the surreal distance. Or visa versa. Oh, the possibilities seem endless!
Just about as endless as are the rules governing composition techniques. I Googled ‘photo composition rules’ and looked briefly at just three sites to find just some of the ‘rules’ you ‘must’ to pay attention to:
- The Golden Mean/Ratio/Section/Proportion/Triangles/Spirals
- Rule of Thirds
- The Rule of Diagonals
- Avoid the Middle
- Use Diagonals
- Use Odd Numbers of Subjects
- Simplify the Elements
- Fill the Frame
- Frame the Subject
- Balance Elements
- Leading Lines
- Breathing Space
- Clean Up the Background
- Use Shapes, Lines and Patterns
- Use Symmetry
- Point of View
- Depth Clues
- Aspect Ratio: 2:3, 3:4, Panoramic, Square, etc.
- Landscape vs. Portrait
- Negative Space
Oh, Good Grief, Charlie Brown. You can’t even remember to not kick that football! How are we to remember all those rules?!
Well, the good news is two-fold: 1) you don’t need to remember all of these, and 2) even if you did memorize all of them, they don’t all come into play with any single image. That makes it easier. Start with one or two, and work from there. Plus, you may already be doing some of these unconsciously. I’m going to choose a few of the simpler techniques which help guide the placement of your subject and supporting elements within your image.
Consider the shapes and forms within your image.
- Is there a single subject and a vaster background — a cow in a field, the moon in the sky, one person in the town square?
- Are there prominent lines — diagonal, parallel, horizontal, or vertical — fences, railroad tracks, stairways, roads, horizon, mountain ridge line, the edge of a building?
- Do you have movement depicted — birds in flight, moving cars, people walking?
Think about how these elements might ‘work’ within a rectangular constraint. Generally the viewer’s eye will come in at a strong element and follow whatever path the other elements provide. So you want to provide a strong eye-entry point and a path. The concepts I’m going to talk about here are equally applicable when your format is a square image.
Lines might curve through your image leading the eye past a few key elements — a pasture fence might wind past the flock, the shepherd, and his dogs at the side; see if you can place these at the Thirds.
Finally — in this conversation, anyway — let’s speak of movement. Real and implied. Generally (again with the ‘generally’ since your message will determine the outcome here) generally, your subject should be perceived as moving into the majority of the image’s area. But maybe not. Is it a puppy scampering around the yard? Then probably it should be scampering into the shot. Or is it a shot of one lonely soul walking down a long, straight country road toward the sunset and so should be near the farther limits of your image about to disappear from view? Only you will know these answers since these are your messages depicted in your images.
Thank You for visiting,
P.s. How are these composition exercises coming along for you? Which ones have been a snap? Which ones are giving you grief? What revelations have you had? When and how have you broken the rules — to your benefit? Let us know in the comments and we’ll all compare notes.