Understanding Composition Techniques For Professional Results is the bread butter of photography. You could travel to the most breathtaking corners of the planet to photograph, but if you don’t understand the elements required to make effective compositions, you will be left with photos that even your mum wouldn’t place on their fridge.
This article has been written to make sure you understand how to build professional compositions and avoid any future mistakes in the future. Be sure to read through so you fully understand the concepts behind each technique. A little time in the classroom pays off in the field. The Best Composition Techniques For Professional Results, The Best Composition Techniques For Professional Results.
- 1. Rule Of Thirds
- 2. Layering
- 3. Framing
- 4. Background
- 5. Perspective
- 6. Leading Lines
- 7. Negative Space
- 8. Minimalism
- 9. Filling The Frame
- 10. Patterns
- 11. Implied Motion
- 12. Rule of Odds
- 13. Symmetry
- 14. Golden Ratio
- 15. Break The Rules
- 16. Conclusion
1. Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is perhaps the best-known composition rule on our list. It was first introduced in 1797 by an artist named John Thomas Smith in his book Remarks on Rural Scenery. It is based on the idea that the human eye is more attracted to images divided by thirds.
Fortunately, most modern-day cameras, including smartphones, have the option to display a grid that helps photographers compose their frames to adhere to this rule.
When following this rule it is best to align the subject along with one of the grid lines or at one of the intersecting points. Furthermore, if there is a point of interest, say a mountain, in the background then you would align that mountain along the other vertical line in the frame to gain a well-balanced composition.
Of course, you could also place a person in the centre of the frame, but by doing so you make them the centre point of focus of the photograph. And the environment is secondary.
Layering is a professional level composition technique because it gives the perception of three dimensions on a two-dimensional plane. Adding what is known as depth of field to an image.
To achieve this technique, you will need to incorporate a foreground, mid-ground and background. However, special care is required not to make these layers distracting from the subject matter. Skilful photographers will also use these components to frame their subjects and create leading lines to further enhance the composition.
Framing is about using frames within the bounds of the camera’s field of view to draw the viewer’s attention to a subject. A basic example of this is Photographing someone standing in a doorway. By doing so, you are framing that person’s body within the frame of the door, inside the composition itself.
This rule can be applied to multiple scenarios and objects but must see the subject or subjects surrounded by some kind of framing device. You could further enhance this technique by using framing devices that conform to another rule in this list, such as symmetry.
The background is perhaps the most easily forgotten rule on the list. It can be easy to get so caught up in the subject that one can forget the background elements entirely. Only to find out later when reviewing the images that the background was too nosy and distracting, or lines were cutting right through the subject’s head.
Remaining conscious of the relationship between the subject and the background takes some training. However, over time you will develop the eye and awareness necessary to see this relationship at all times.
On the other hand, there is the option to use an aperture wide enough to blur out the background. This may sound like an easy fix. However, it may be necessary to give context to the subject. So this is not always an option.
Perspective has the power to transform a shot from one thing to another entirely. Sometimes if there is a shot you are committed to getting, but the first few attempts don’t work, simply changing the perspective could help you achieve it. There are four main types of perspective compositions in photography.
Shooting your compositions from a low angle perspective has the effect of bringing the viewer back to their childhoods. Forcing them once again to see things as they once did when they were much smaller. Subjects shot from this perspective seem far more grandiose than they would be shot at eye level. Furthermore, we tend to value things we look up to. If these are feelings you wish to stir in your photographs, then taking your shots from a low angle may be the right approach.
To achieve a low angle shot, all you need to do is make sure that you are lower than your subject and shoot upwards
High angles in photographs have the power to make your subjects appear smaller while increasing depth in your image. It will often leave your subject feeling inferior as they look small and engulfed by their surroundings.
Take the classic man in the mountains shot. A single person surrounded by nature in a way that communicated its might. While reminding us of how small we are in the world.
To shoot at a high angle, simply get above your subject and shoot downwards at them.
5.3. Lateral Movement
The lateral movement basically means moving along a lateral plain to capture 3 different perspectives of the same subject.
Take shooting a road, for example. You could decide to photograph it head-on and place the road in the middle of the frame. Or you could move to the left or the right, with the road on the side of the composition.
5.4 First Person POV
POV stands for point of view. An effective technique is used to transport the viewer into the eyes of the photographer. You can achieve this by placing arms or legs into the shot.
When shooting POV, it is better to use wide-angle lenses as they better represent the field of view our eyes have. Thus creating more realism in the shot. If you don’t have a wide-angle lens, then an effective hack to overcome this is to take a shortened panorama shot.
6. Leading Lines
People’s eyes like to be guided to a subject in a photograph. That is why photographers use these lines to steer and guide the viewer’s eyes to a single point. These lines can be found in buildings, streets, trees, mountains, water etc. These lines travel from the edges of the frame towards a single point within the composition.
There are two types of leading lines: Organic and geometric. The latter are found in streets and buildings and are often man-made. These lines tend to be straight and are much easier to follow. The former, organic lines, are found in nature, such as mountains, rivers, trees etc. These lines are much less uniform than geometric lines but can still lead the viewer’s eyes to a specific area.
7. Negative Space
The space surrounding a subject with no information is known as negative space. For example, if you are shooting a low angle shot directed towards the sky, the sky surrounding the subject is referred to as the negative space. This space is as important as the subject because it also forms shapes and lines.
Furthermore, the amount of negative space used in an image also has the power to alter the mood and feeling of the composition. For example, the negative space used in a photograph can feel isolated and lost in space.
Like learning to remain vigilant of the background in a frame, it can also take some time to stay conscious of how the negative space in a photograph affects the mood of that image. Take the time and experiment with this rule. It will soon become second nature.
Great design is about simplicity. The noisier something is, the less inclined we are to see it as a clean and appealing form or image. Take a cluttered desktop, for example, with files outside of folders and not aligned. It is enough to give anyone a headache.
Well, the same can be said for photography. That is why keeping a composition as simple as possible helps the viewer note and appreciate the subject matter without being distracted by needless other information.
Minimalism as a genre in photography takes this principle to the extremes. Stripping back compositions to mere shapes and isolated subjects. While you do not need to take your own photography this far, it is best to keep things simple when composing your own shots.
9. Filling The Frame
Filling the frame is a great way to eliminate distractions from the targeted subject matter. And unlike isolated or distant subjects getting close up to them gives an image a more impactful and personal touch.
Just be careful that you do not become used to taking close-ups only. Because it is far easier to simply go for a close up than to think about and compose a shot based on multiple elements in a scene. If used wisely in an album, a few close-ups will give them even more impact.
As a survival instinct, the human brain developed the capacity to spot patterns and disruptions. This was based on maintaining a survivable routine and identifying any threats. As such, our brains are hard-wired to enjoy looking at repeating forms. And is why we value conformity and balance over chaos.
The use of repetition, pattern and conformity in your photography has the power to trigger this innate appreciation in our brains. Something you can use to your advantage to create more harmonic and dynamic compositions.
You can also take this further by using a subject or point of interest to break in the pattern. The contrast will elevate the impact of the composition even further.
11. Implied Motion
Another example is if someone is looking to one side. There must be space enough in the frame to look into. A person staring into one direction of the composition with more space on the opposite side will create imbalance.
In both of these scenarios, you should add either a balanced amount of space or more in the direction they are moving/looking to achieve that balance in your composition.
12. Rule of Odds
The use of even forms can work to your advantage in some cases, but only if you place the point of focus within them. For example, a person standing between two pillars will draw your attention to them. However, if the pillars themselves are the subject, you should include at least 3 of them.
This rule is similar to patterns. It triggers the same part of our brain that enjoys uniformity and repetition.
Finding symmetry in your compositions, especially in places where we typically don’t see any, can enhance an image tenfold. Utilising this technique can frame the subject matter in the negative spaces also.
Always remain conscious of how all the forms in a composition relate to one another. Use this understanding to your advantage and create incredible works.
14. Golden Ratio
The golden ratio is a mathematically based composition technique and the most complicated of all the rules in the list. In this rule, a frame is divided into nine sections, creating lines for the placement of elements. However, these sections are not equal in size. Each of the boxes becomes half the size of the last.
This rule has been around for centuries, far before the birth of photography. And can be seen in many historical works of art. It is perhaps the most challenging composition rule, especially in instances where a photographer does not have the option to compose their shots. However, when achieved, it can be the most impactful.
15. Break The Rules
Lastly, I should mention that all of the rules and techniques are given in this article are merely guidelines and can be bent and broken. However, a portrait artist must learn the rules of composition first. Before they become more experimental.
So too, a photographer must learn how to take visually appealing photographs that adhere to these rules before they begin to break them.
When the time comes for you to start fracturing the rules and further develop your personal style, you will be armed with far better knowledge and understanding of how to do so with an artful approach.
That’s it for this article. In your own time, try choosing a single rule from the list and make it your goal for the day to capture an album of images that conform to this rule. Once you are home, you can review your photographs to see how well they adhere to the target you set and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
This is a crucial step in the learning process and shouldn’t be skipped if you are serious about stepping up your photography game. Which I know you can! I promise you that by taking the time to sit down and assess your photographs, your brain will be better equipped to spot and understand the positive and detrimental components of the shots in your next photographic excursion!
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The Best Composition Techniques For Professional Results, The Best Composition Techniques For Professional Results, The Best Composition Techniques For Professional Results.