What is composition in a photo?
Composition in a picture is noticing and capturing an interesting set of elements with a purpose, to support telling a story. Those elements in a photograph can be people captured in a frame, lines, shapes, patterns, colors, textures or lack of it.
The guidelines of composition can help you take more interesting pictures. It can help you see the occurring patterns, or their lack. Helping you notice the beauty of textures, colors or the power of using the available negative-space. It can help you draw attention to the parts of the picture that you want the viewers to pay attention to. As a photographer you are the storyteller, and you are in charge of guiding the viewer eyes and focusing their attention at the subject.
Once you are familiar with the general composition guidelines, you will see how universal most of them are. You’ll spot them everywhere, and you’ll find it easy to see why some photos “work” while others feel like simple snapshots.
What are the 9 guidelines of composition?
- Follow the rule of thirds
- Frame your subject
- Use depth of field to create interest
- How you crop matters!
- Choose your viewpoint
- Keep an eye on the background
- Look for leading lines, patterns and symmetry
- Introduce balancing elements
- Use your creative freedom
Photography is a two-dimensional medium, make sure to choose your composition carefully to capture well the sense of depth that is present in your composition. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.
Another useful composition technique is overlapping. The aim is to deliberately partially cover one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers, separates them out, and creates an image with more depth.
If you want to capture the viewers undivided attention on the main star of your picture, make sure to crop tight around your subject. You will cut all the potential background “noise”.
Before taking the first picture, keep in mind that the perspective you will take your shot from will have a massive impact on the final picture. Think about it first, consider your options and choose the one that will fit your idea best. Depending on the option you will choose, the composition of your picture will change, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys.
Be playful, shooting from eye level might feel like a safe option, and often it is. But every now and then try to shoot from different angles. Try photographing from high above, from the side, from really close by, try laying down on the ground and shoot from down at ground level, from a long way away. Your options are endless… try out as many options as you can think of.
The human eye has the ability to distinguish different elements in a scene, camera on the other hand, has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background. This is such an important fact to consider. If you forget it, and don’t take it into account while shooting, this can ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is not so hard to fix while shooting.
Separate your subject from the background. Whenever possible avoid busy, full of distractions, colors and patterns backgrounds. Especially while shooting portraits, look around and try to find a clean background to shoot on. Pose your subject, and make sure that he or she stands out, make them the main focus of your image.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place these leading lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey “through” the scene.
There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.
We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.
Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You can achieve a balanced composition and even out the main subject’s “visual weight” by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
In the present time of digital age in photography, we no longer have to worry about the costs of developing pictures, or running out of film. As a result, experimenting with composition has become part of the photography experience. Now we can as easily take hundreds of pictures, one after another, and delete all we don’t like with a kick of a button. I like to see this fact as an opportunity, and I would like to encourage you to take advantage of this fact.
There are no real secret strict rules for composition in photography. As I mentioned before, all of the “rules” I mentioned above should be taken as helpful guidelines. If they don’t apply to your shot, if they don’t make it better, ignore them. If you see a great composition that contradicts the guidelines, no matter what go ahead and take that shot. Still keep in mind that those rules of composition are here to help, and when used correctly they can often greatly improve the picture.
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I hope that you found those guidelines useful, and that you feel even more encouraged to start exploring the incredible world of photography, and using your camera.
And sweetheart even if you are taking the shots, make sure to exist in portraits every now and then!