One of the key elements to a shooting a great photo is photography composition. By using certain established composition tricks you can really make a huge impact on your photographs.
Composition in photography is really just that: composing your photos in a way that makes the best visual sense.
This allows you to take more compelling photos by leading the viewer’s eyes through the scene or drawing attention to specific parts of the photograph.
Below, we’ve outlined a set of guidelines when composing your photographs that you can apply in any situation.
Read through all of them to get familiar with the impact they can have on your photos. Then, the next time you look through your viewfinder think about which on of these photography composition rules will work best for your photograph before you release the shutter button.
Rule of Thirds
A classic photo composition technique.
Imagine that your photo is divided into nine equal parts by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. Doing so will add balance and interest to your photograph.
When you place your main subject off center and follow the the rule of thirds, this can create a more dynamic photo. However, it can also leave a void space in the photography which may make the scene feel empty. This may work well for your photo, but if not you should balance the weight of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines.
By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.
Symmetry and Patterns
Symmetry and patterns can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected.
Look for repetitious items within your scene and try to compose a photo with them placed evenly apart. Another great way to use this trick is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene. See the photo below.
Viewpoint has a major impact on the composition photographs and can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys.
Don’t make the mistake of always shooting from eye level. Consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on. Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from.
In fact, shoot your subject in a variety of viewpoints and then choose the one that looks best!
The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background. This can often ruin an otherwise great composition.
Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.
Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene.
You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.
The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes.
By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.
Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background “noise”, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.
With the dawn of the digital age in photography we no longer have to worry about film processing costs or running out of shots.
As a result, experimenting with our compositions has become a real possibility; we can fire off tons of shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your photography composition – you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.
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