|Column: Compose yourself|
Monday, 14 February 2011 15:30
Composition is pretty much half your work in photography. There are a few tricks you can master to get composition right.
Rule of Thirds
Imagine your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Much like a sudoku graph. Try to 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 photo.
Placing your main subject in the centre makes for a boring mugshot. As with the rule of thirds, placing it off-centre creates a more interesting photo. An example of both can be found here.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. Kind of like when we first draw our house and family when we’re in grade 00.
By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way one views 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. Gonzo photography uses leading lines a lot. Example can be found here.
Symmetry and Patterns
We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. These can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.
The one thing I like to do is play with texture. A flat, linear subject on a fuzzy background or active person on stage with a static backdrop. It works. Example can be found here.
Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. The shooter’s viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys.
Rather than just 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. I usually play with levels. If you’re short, use it to your advantage and shoot from below. Stand awkwardly, climb a tree, hold the camera up and point it downward… whatever it takes to get that shot from your vision right.
How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background?
A camera has a tendency to flatten foreground and background, and can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Scout for a background that will bring out the subject or message perfectly – like a flat background for a model but the sand as background to describe the roughness of the dunes on a beach trip. Example can be found here.
Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to convey 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 recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth. Example can be found here.
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 focussed image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest. Example can be found here.
Often overlooked, cropping is needed when a photo lacks 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.
Crop in interesting ways, even if it’s half a person’s face. Example can be found here.
Composition is the key to great shots. Get the composition right, you have only to worry about the technical stuff. Just remember; play and thou shalt receive.
Who to follow this week: @Rob_Stones for amazing tips, news and help, whenever you need it.
Nikita Ramkissoon is a journalist and sub-editor at ITWeb.co.za. She has been a freelancer for over five years, focusing on entertainment and conservation, and has recently become a geek-in-training with ITWeb. She loves photography, rock and indie music, Guitar Hero and geeks. Environmentalist. Tourist. Artist. Musicist. Non-feminist feminist. Activist. Evolutionist. Bloggist. Journalist. Greatest. She can be found tweeting @nikistarfish. She is also a wannabe Jedi and rock star.
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