When it comes to taking good photos, learning composition is key. These composition ‘rules’ are really only guides because there are no real rules to photography. The more you know about composition, the easier it’ll be to compose your photo in a way that appeals to more people. Once you’ve learned about composition, the next step is to go out and fotget it all, just take photos that feel right to you with your new knowledge.
This is one of the most common composition techniques around and it’s that way for a reason; it works. Photos that are correctly composed using the rule of thirds create depth and interest in a photo, and add an interesting balance between subjects and background. Once you start playing around with this rule, you’ll start to see it more naturally and your photos will begin to improve. You’ll see this a lot in TV and movies, where the talking subject will be in the background, and the person they’re talking to is in the foreground, with their back to you. Once you’ve learned this rule, you’ll start to see it everywhere.
Triangles are in almost everything we see, in one way or another, it’s just a case of distinguishing them and knowing what to do with them. They make great compositional tools as they’re easy to make, manipulate, and are remarkably common. Triangles are a great way of combining different compositional techniques such as lines and paths and using them to create a more interesting part of a photograph, but the best part about using a triangle is their ability to make a photo feel stable or unstable.
I’ve mention visual weight in quite a few posts, but only recently went into detail about what it actually is; it’s a lot more then just the size of an object in a scene. Visual weight is determined by the way that we look at the photo, and what we see first and spend the most amount of time looking at. If you understand the visual weight of different objects in the scene, you can use your knowledge effectively to encourage the viewer to see the photo in a certain way.
Dynamic tension is a way of using the energy and movement available in various features of the frame, to draw the eye out of the picture in contrasting directions. We’ve already looked at a variety of different lines that you can use in a photo to make it more interesting, but dynamic tension takes these lines and adds varying degrees of contrast between them, making them much more interesting. The simplest and most obvious photo that I have that demonstrates dynamic tension is the one below – the lines move out from the center of the photo to edge of the photo.
Balance is at the base of every composition; it determines whether the photo is pleasing and harmonious to look at, or rather uncomfortable and unresolved. If you look at balance in a literal sense, a very basic analogy comes to mind which is that or the weighing scales. If you divide the photo in half with a fulcrum in the middle, you can place objects in different parts of the scene to make the photo appear balanced or unbalanced. When a photo is largely symmetrical, it’s easy to see the balance, but obvious balance is somewhat balance.
Frames are a great way of using a photographic element to lead the viewers eyes into the frame to focus them on a particular point, and the sense of repetition that they can provide, produce depth and a path for the eyes to explore. A photo of a scene with a foreground feature makes for much more interesting build up to the main part of a photo and can, in some cases, carry equal weight to the rest of the photo.
When a frame is being divided by a single, dominant line, it’s more often than not, a horizon, as they’re fairly common in outdoor photography, particularly landscapes. If the photo is of nothing particularly interesting, then usually this line becomes be the dominant part of the photo for the way in which it separates the frame. Exactly where you place the horizon in a frame can have a huge affect on the image; it’s all about what part of the photo is the most interesting, and how you want to make your viewer feel with the divide.
The way in which we view a photo is heavily dependant on the photographer’s choice of composition, which leads our eyes in a certain path. The more that you understand about how people look at photos, the better you’ll become at influencing them in the future. This really is one of the most important tutorials, because if you don’t understand how a person looks at a photo, you can’t be sure that your photo is having the desired effect.
If you take photos of people, then you take photos with eye lines, so it’s important to understand the effect that they have over how we view photos. If you’ve read up on visual weight before, then you should understand the effect that having a face in a photo has, but there’s much more to it than that. Eye-lines have the ability to focus our attention on another part of the photo, as well as producing tension and other photographic elements, such as triangles.
Juxtaposition is easy to do when you know how, but it isn’t a particularly common occurrence in everyday photography, so that increased the degree of difficulty. You can use it to varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how obvious you make it, and it’s a really good way of making what could have been a boring photo into something much more interesting. Simply put, it’s the inclusion of extra elements in a scene to either reinforce, or contradict the main visual element.
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