“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams
COMPOSITION is defined as combining the distinct parts or elements to form a whole. In photographic terms, composition is the art of composing an image through framing. This is the art that almost everyone agrees is critical to the success of a photograph. The following rules of composition should be learned and considered but not necessarily used in every photo. Once you have learned these rules you will be more observant of the possible photo opportunities that surround you. Keep in mind that the really famous photographers usually find some creative ways to stretch or break the rules of composition.
Center of interest :
A photograph should have a strong focal point. Determine what it is before composing your photo. Each picture should have only one principal idea, topic, or center of interest to which the viewer’s eyes are attracted. Subordinate elements within the picture must support and focus attention on the principal feature so it alone is emphasized.
A picture without a dominant ‘Center of interest’ or with more than one ‘Center of interest’ is puzzling to a viewer. Subsequently, the viewer becomes confused and wonders what the picture is all about. When the picture has only one dominant ‘Center of interest’, the viewer quickly understands the picture.
The Rule of Thirds :
The rule of thirds has been used through the centuries and is probably the most recognized rule. The rule of thirds directs that the frame can be divided into three vertical sections and three horizontal sections. Wherever the separating lines connect is an ideal spot for a subject or point of interest. By positioning your main subject at any of the four intersection points, you are giving your subject more emphasis than if it is right in the middle of the photo. The intersection points can also work if there is more than one main subject in a photo. Most famous photographs and paintings have the rule of thirds applied to them in some way or another.
Leading lines :
One of the most important concepts in photography is that you want the photo to “draw” the viewer’s eyes somewhere, ideally on a particular path through the photo. The easiest way to pull the viewer’s eyes through a photo is to provide them with a direct route — and this is done with leading lines. A leading line could be anything: roads, fences, tree branches, walls, natural contours, or even silhouettes. It could even be an implied line, such as a beach or a queue of people.
Foreground and background :
For some, the greatest difficulty of photography is capturing the beauty and essence of a three-dimensional scene in a two-dimensional photo. Often, the result is a flat, static image that has none of the life that made the scene so awesome in the first place. While there are many ways to trick the brain into thinking a two-dimensional image is three-dimensional, one of the easiest methods is to make sure that the photo has a foreground and a background that both complement the intended subject.
Keep compositions simple, avoiding busy background that distracts from a subject. Simplicity is the key to most good pictures. The simpler and more direct a picture is, the clearer and stronger is the resulting statement. There are several things to be considered when we discuss simplicity.
First, select a subject that lends itself to a simple arrangement; for example, instead of photographing an entire area that would confuse the viewer, frame in on some important element within the area.
Second, select different viewpoints or camera angles. Move around the scene or object being photographed. View the scene through the camera viewfinder. Look at the foreground and background. Try high and low angles as well as normal eye-level viewpoints. Evaluate each view and angle, make sure there’s nothing in the background that can distract the viewer. Only after considering all possibilities you should take the picture.
Horizon lines :
Don’t place the horizon line, or any strong vertical or horizontal lines, right in the middle of a picture. And make sure the lines aren’t tilted.
Framing a subject by zooming or moving closer draws attention to it. It is simply using other objects in your photograph to frame the main subject. This is probably one of the easier composition techniques in photography. Framing brings more depth to the picture and a better focus on what the main subject is.
I don’t go crazy about exactly where a crop on a person is “supposed” to be, but I do think it is important to crop with care. My rule of thumb is if you are going to crop off part of the body, crop hard. Cut off a good chunk. The real problem happens when you just barely cut off a skiff of the person’s head or cut off half the hand, etc.
For example; if the photo is a full length shot of a man with no feet or just one foot, the man will look odd and the viewer’s eye goes right to the missing feet rather than his eyes.
Again, don’t be afraid to cut off part of the body, but remember to do so with care.
An identical or near-identical image of its other half. Use of symmetry often provides a formal balance.
Vary angles :
Shoot at varying angles to capture a subject from a different viewpoint. Move the camera higher or lower than you usually do. For a dramatic effect, take some photos from a birds-eye (looking down) or worms-eyes view (looking up).
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