Knowing where to place the various elements in your images is basic to great composition and unless you can master this your images will be average. You need to grasp these fundamentals early in your journey as you learn photography. A great photo is a result of a great composition. The quicker you learn this principle, the faster you will arrive at stunning images.
I always thought that it was only the professional photographers who, after years of experience, could shoot those amazing compositions. I was horribly wrong. By mastering just a few techniques, I was able to create images beyond my wildest dreams. How? By following these simple tricks.
1. The rule of thirds
Most people who have dabbled in photography have heard of the rule thirds. This is when you divide your image up into thirds vertically and horizontally. Imagine a tic-tac-toe or noughts and crosses grid. Now place this across your image and where the lines intersect are your two thirds focal points. This is where you place your subject or focal point in an image. The grid idea was developed originally by painters, although the idea goes back to early Greeks a few thousand years ago.
2. Interesting foregrounds
It’s essential when shooting a scene that you look for something in the foreground that is interesting. It adds balance but also leads the eye into the scene. This generates a feeling or sense of depth to the image when used in combination with a low angled viewpoint. It doesn’t matter how interesting your subject or background is, if you foreground is boring the photo will never rise above average.
By developing a sense of scale and depth in your images you bring perspective into play, and this creates a really stunning image. Photos are two dimensional and by adding depth and perspective you bring a third dimension into play. Use of a wide angle lens is very effective when creating perspective in an image. Subjects in the foreground appear much larger than those in the background. It helps emphasize depth.
One of the most powerful ways to compose an image is the use of lines. Lines draw the eye as it follows the direction of the line. Horizontal lines help divide up a scene while vertical lines give height and strength. A very effective way of leading the eye is when using converging lines, as we all know with railway lines that disappear into the distance appear to join. They provide real depth to any image. Another strong line is the diagonal and this is especially effective when going from bottom left to top right. They work very well at leading the eye to a point in the image.
5. Breaking the rules
We all know that rules are meant to be broken. This too is true of photography, BUT, only when you have a good understanding of the fundamentals and know when it’s possible. The flagrant breaking of the rules doesn’t add anything to your compositions, but done properly can result in a dramatic image. Always be prepared to experiment. Most of the time a subject in the middle of an image is not effective. If you try it you’ll know but every now and then it can create a stunning image. So be prepared to try bending the rules and see what happens.
Getting to grips with a fundamental understanding of the rules of composition as you learn digital photography will give you a foundation for the rest of your photographic journey. Practice, experiment and work hard at getting the perfect photo. Happy shooting!
About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video, he is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.
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