Composition

By , August 4, 2010 8:24 am

I have spent the last month just practicing taking photographs in an attempt to internalize some of the technical information I have been learning. It is helping but  lots more practice is still the order of the day.  I thought I’d post about “composition” of photographs and what I have been learning there. In the past I have managed to takes some good photographs but it just sort of happened – circumstances were right and background worked with the subject at hand, etc. but I never really thought about composing in the sense of thinking about the entire picture. Here are some things I’ve begun to focus on when composing:

Learning how to see the world though a lens was my first step. I didn’t realize how I would just instantly focus on the specific subject I was photographing. I didn’t give much thought to the background and how distractive it can be. I just wanted my subject in focus and looking good. You may get a great shot of your subject but background clutter can pull you eye away from the subject. Now I try  to scan the four corners of my picture through the lens. This habit will help me eliminate any clutter or distractions.  I’ve also learned to look at how the light is affecting the photo to be. It can take away the focus on the subject. So I try to remove the clutter, if possible and if that is not possible I use a shallow depth of field to blur the background.  This is something that I had no idea how to do. I plan to post more about depth of field later.

Here are some basic rules and things to think about  for composition that I have either read in my books or read on the web. You need to learn the rules and then be OK with breaking them in a way that enhances your own individual photography.

The rule of thirds
In your mind, divide  your image  into nine equal parts. The human eye is naturally drawn to a point about two-thirds up a page. Crop your photo so that the main subjects are located around one of the intersection points rather than in the middle of the image.  This will enhance your image by adding balance and interest to your photo. The T1i has the option to superimpose a grid on the LCD screen to help you even further with applying this rule. So remember not to put your subjects dead center in the photograph.
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Balancing your photograph
Place the main subject off-center to make a more engaging photo.  You don’t want the scene to  feel empty so think about including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

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Leading Lines

When you view a photo your eye is naturally drawn along lines. The lines may be straight, curvy, wavy, diagonal, zigzag, etc. You need to place lines in your composition so it draws you into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey ‘though’ the activity in the scene. There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance your photo’s composition.

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Symmetry and Patterns
There is  symmetry and patterns all around us, both natural and man-made, and they can make for very appealing compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another effective way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

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Viewpoint
Consider where you will shoot your subject from before you actually begin to  take the photograph. Think about 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.

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Background
Search for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject. Make sure there is nothing in the photo that may distort your subject in some way. You don’t want a tree right behind you subject as it may end up looking  like the tree is growing out of your subject’s head. When you are photographing you are turning a three-dimensional world into two dimensions. You are flattening everything the camera sees into one visual plane. So be careful not to include any objects that may be a problem.

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Create Depth
Create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Also you can use  composition technique called overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. This creates an image with more depth.
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Framing
There are many objects in nature that make perfect natural frames, such as trees, arches, and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to make the main subject stand out in a way that pulls your eye naturally to the main subject.
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Cropping
Watch out for clutter around you subject and crop tight to eliminate the background ‘noise’ to make sure the subject gets main attention.

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