When it comes to taking good photos, learning composition is key.
These composition ‘rules’ are only really guides as there are no real rules to photography.
The more you know about composition, the easier it becomes 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 forget it all – just take photos that feel right to you with your new set of 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 as it adds an interesting balance between the subject(s) and the background.
Once you start playing around with this rule, you’ll begin to see it more naturally and your photos will improve.
You’ll see this a lot in TV and movies: the talking subject is in the background and the person they’re talking to is in the foreground, with their back to you. Once you’ve learnt this rule, you’ll start seeing it everywhere.
Triangles are present 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.
Triangles make great compositional tools as they’re easy to make and manipulate, and are remarkably common.
Triangles are a great way of combining different compositional techniques such as lines and paths and using these to create a more interesting aspect of a photograph. The best thing about using a triangle is the ability they have to make a photo feel stable or unstable.
I’ve mention visual weight in quite a few posts but have only recently gone into detail about what it actually is. It’s a lot more than just the size of an object in a scene.
Visual weight is determined by the way that we look at the photo, what we see first and what we 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 an image 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 demonstrating dynamic tension is the one below – the lines move out from the center of the photo to the edges.
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, the very basic analogy that comes to mind is that of 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 isn’t necessarily what you want.
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. The sense of repetition that they can provide produces depth as well as a path along which the eyes can explore.
A photo of a scene with a foreground feature makes for a much more interesting build up to the main part of a photo. This can, in some cases, carry equal weight to the rest of the photo.
When a frame is being divided by a single, dominant line, this is more often than not a horizon – they’re fairly common in outdoor photography, particularly landscapes.
If the photo is of nothing particularly interesting, this line becomes the dominant part of the photo due to the dramatic 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 which 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 dependent upon the photographer’s choice of composition, which leads our eyes in a certain path.
The more 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, you’re taking photos with eye lines; it’s important to understand the effects that eye lines can have on the way in which we view photos.
If you’ve read up on visual weight, you should understand the effect that the presence of a face has on a photo 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, increasing 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.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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