When it comes to photography, composition is key. Amateur photographers often make the mistake of simply point-and-shooting without giving much thought to the composition of their shot. But taking a moment to think about the composition of your photo can make all the difference in terms of creating a beautiful, well-balanced image. There are a few key things to keep in mind when composing your shots. First, try to avoid putting your subject dead-center in the frame. Instead, off-center compositions are usually more visually interesting and can add a sense of dynamics to your photo. Second, be aware of the rule of thirds, which states that an image is more pleasing to the eye when the subject is placed along one of the thirds lines of the frame. And lastly, try to use leading lines to direct the viewer's eye towards your subject. By following these simple composition tips, you can instantly improve your photos and take your amateur photography skills up a notch. Now let’s look over some of these aspects and even more.
Energy And Directed Attention
The amateur photographer often struggles with finding ways to engage their viewer. Professional photographers have a few basic tricks for ensuring that the energy of the scene is felt by those who view their work. One way to enhance the feeling of energy in a photo is by using leading lines. Leading lines are simply lines that lead the eye into and through the frame. They can be natural, like a path through a forest, or man-made, like the edge of a building. Leading lines help to give the viewer a sense of movement and action, even if the scene itself is static.
Another way to add energy to a photo is by using a wide aperture. This allows more light into the camera, which can help to create a sense of movement and excitement. It can also help to focus the viewer's attention on the subject matter, as the background will be more blurred. Finally, one of the best ways to add energy to a photo is simply by being aware of the direction of the light. Light can have a huge impact on the overall feeling of a photo. Light that is coming from behind the subject will often create a feeling of movement, while light that is coming from the front can create a feeling of stillness. Paying attention to the direction of the light can help to create photos that are more dynamic and exciting.
A time-honored starting point for creating interesting compositions is done thus. Imagine that the area of your image is divided into nine equal portions by three evenly spaced vertical lines and three evenly spaced horizontal lines. One compositional formula is to arrange the major elements of your composition so that they fall either into any of the boxes created by this imaginary grid, or onto any of the intersections.
Figure 3e. Rule of Thirds Grid
In Figure 3e we see that the tree trunk closely follows the right vertical, while the fence and grass follow the lower horizontal.
Figure 3f. Rule of Thirds Grid 2
Find the rule of thirds to be a helpful starting point for creating interesting compositions, but it's not a hard and fast rule that always results in a great photo. Sometimes breaking the rule of thirds can lead to even more interesting and visually striking results. One way to break the rule of thirds is by placing your subject off-center. The rule of thirds is a guideline which states that an image is more pleasing to the eye if the subject is placed along one of the thirds lines of the frame. This can be accomplished by simply offsetting your subject to one side or the other, as seen in Figure 3e.
In Figure 3f we see that the horizon is roughly at the upper horizontal; the foreground reeds and grass shoulder follow are bounded by the lower horizontal; the grass shoulder also fills the lower right box, which is echoed by the leafy branch in the upper left.
The rule of thirds is meant to foster pleasingly asymmetrical compositions; but, given we can place things on any grid line(s), we can have symmetry in thirds as well:
Figure 3g. Symmetry in Thirds
If the underlying motivation for any composition is to engender dynamism (or at least to avoid lethargy), we can literally tune the level of energy by choosing our degree of asymmetry:
Figures 3h. Off-center
Off-center compositions are usually more visually interesting and can add a sense of dynamics to your photo.
Figures 3i and 3j. Variations
One of the most important aspects of composition is understanding how to use the space within your frame. The way you arrange the elements within your frame can have a big impact on the overall feeling of the photo. When composing your photos, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to make the most of the space within your frame. First, try to fill the frame with your subject matter. This will help to create a sense of intimacy and closeness. It can also help to focus the viewer's attention on the subject. Second, be aware of the edges of the frame and what is happening there. You don't want your subject to be too close to the edge as it can create a sense of unease. Third, leave some negative space in your composition. This empty space can help to emphasize your subject and give it a sense of importance.
Strangely, the rule of thirds version 3j is more serene and stable than dynamic. The pure symmetry version 3i has plenty of energy, perhaps that of a ballerina poised on her toes, while perhaps erring on the side of being precious. But 3h, the slightly off-center version, is the crop the photographer chose for this image because of the subtle tension in the slight asymmetry. It's not a matter of right and wrong, but of what works for you.
Create a lines of attention map for this picture:
Do the same with some of your own pictures. Also with your own pictures try to find at least one that seems to work as a rule of thirds composition, whether horizontal or vertical.