What Makes a Great Photograph Part Two - Composition

February 26, 2016  •  2 Comments

What Makes a Great Photograph

Part 2 - Composition

 

MASTER THE ART OF COMPOSITION

As I've spoken about before, I believe there a 3 key reasons that any particular photograph looks great, they are Light/Composition and Emotion. Last week I covered the importance of Light, this week I am going to speak about composition.

What it boils down to is, if I gave a photography novice the best camera in the world and handed my iPhone to a photography Pro, because of the Pro's understanding of composition, harmony and balance, I'm pretty sure he would achieve the better shot by far. So when talking about composition the first thing to do is to learn a number of basic rules and once you have a good understanding of those go out, experiment with them, bend them and break them!

So, here are some rules to mastering the art of composition:

 

The Rule of Thirds

Devised by the Ancient Greeks 2500 years ago, the Rule of Thirds still works today. To use it, simply divide your frame into a noughts and crosses grid and ensure the subjects of greatest importance to the composition are positioned in the frame at the point where the lines intersect and you'll get a balanced frame. On most digital camera's today and even your mobile phone you will have the option to overlay a grid on the screen when taking your photographs, use it to improve your positioning and balance.

In the photo above of the Liverpool Wheel you can see that the main point of focus (The Wheel) sits on the top left intersecting point and the horizon sits along the lower third line and to finish it off the waterway runs up the right hand third, this has produced a balanced composition.

Lead In Lines

Strong linear features draw the viewers eye to a key component within a frame. I's important though to always ensure lead in lines go somewhere though and always avoid those that take your eyes out of the frame.

In the shot, the purpose of the railway tracks is to draw the viewers eye to the sunset on the horizon.

Natural Framing

Look out for a natural object near the scene you are looking to photograph that can be used as a natural frame. Common objects that can be used to frame an image are trees and branches, windows, doorways, tunnels and cave openings. The frame doesn't need to cover every side of the image either. Most successful framed images only have one or two sides framed, on the other hand a fully framed image through a window or door can also be very effective.

In this shot of the O2 Arena, I've used the branches of a nearby tree to frame the arena and give the image extra depth. They also serve to block out the distraction of the neighbouring building.

Active Space

Any subject with a 'face' or 'front' requires more space on the side it's looking into or travelling towards. This could be a person, animal or object. Unless the subject is 'face on' you should allow more 'active' space (the room that the subject is moving/looking into) than 'passive' space (the dead area behind the subject).

In this shot of a fast moving Ferrari, I have left more "Active" space to the right of the subject for it to move into creating a more dynamic image.

Symmetrical Framing

Symmetry in photography makes a powerful statement, particularly in architectural shots and direct 'front-on' portraits, symmetry gives perfect balance. When using symmetrical framing look for strong converging lines to lead the viewers eye into the centre.

Foreground Interest

When shooting landscapes add texture and detail to the bottom of your frame, without it you'll have a 'weak' shot with no 'anchor' to attract the eye. When framing up, moving to the left or right or even lowering your camera angle to seek out foreground interest will result in a much stronger shot.

So, consider these 'rules' as guidelines to success and by using them you will increase your chances of a successful composition.

Next time I'll be talking about how you can inject emotion into your photographs. 


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