Posts Tagged ‘photographic composition’

Composition Basics

February 20, 2012

I teach a number of entry and intermediate digital camera courses. We spend the bulk of our class time on camera operation.

Inevitably, after we cover f-stops and apertures, the topic of composition comes up. Students want to know more than just how to take a technically correct image; they also want to capture photographs that are pleasing to look at. That’s where technical expertise ends and composition begins.

Composition is the art of creating images that tell the story the photographer intended. This first post on composition features examples of two composition basics: The Rule of Thirds, and The Leading Line.

Environmental portraits can often leave the viewer wondering if the image is about the environment, or the person(s) in the portrait. To emphasize my portrait subject in this image I employed the Rule of Thirds to focus the viewer’s attention on Andy, and not the surrounding woods.

The Rule of Thirds states that important information in the photograph should fall on the lines and intersections created by dividing the frame horizontally and vertically into thirds.

If you imagine two lines drawn vertically to split the frame into thirds you will see that my subject is standing a third of the way into the frame. If you then draw two horizontal lines to divide the image into thirds from top to bottom, you will see the subject’s head is located one-third from the top of the image at a point of intersection of our imaginary horizontal and vertical lines.

This placement serves as a visual anchor. In fact, the viewer will have a difficult time focusing on another part of the image. Test this for yourself. Close your eyes and then open them to see the portrait. Inevitably your attention will come to rest on Andy. I have further enhanced this effect by anchoring the left side of the image with the dark tree trunk. A bright open space between Andy and the left side of the frame would have competed for your attention.

This next image is an example of using a Leading Line to direct the viewer’s attention through the photograph. The leading line in this image is obvious, although there are a couple of notes I would like you to observe.

First, the railing enters the image from the left at a different angle from the rest of the path. Notice how this part of the railing is located based on the Rule of Thirds. Had I not included this part of the railing a viewer’s eye would be led through the image just the same. However, there would be no visible anchor to bring the eye back into the frame.

The left side of the image serves as an anchor to bring the viewer back to the starting point of the image over and over. For this same reason I visually closed the top portion of the image with the overhanging branches. This helps to keep your attention focused on my leading line.

I hope you find these composition tips helpful.

Until next time,