Good Photo Composition

To round out our thoughts on Taking better photographs we will take a look at some of the obvious and not so obvious issues you face while in the wild with your camera. This piece won’t cover studio work because that really requires it’s own treatment and to be honest I am not a studio photographer so I will leave that to the likes of Strobist and others. If you are interested in off camera flash work please hop on over to Strobist, there is plenty to keep you busy there for a long time.

Good composition, what is it and how do we achieve it? Composition is simply how the subject you’re shooting looks in the viewfinder, which is what everyone else will see once your pictures come out of the camera. You have probably heard of the rule of thirds which is simply that you divide the viewfinder into a grid of thirds both horizontally and vertically. Many cameras nowadays have this grid feature built in which you can turn on and off. As shown here

The idea being that you should put your subject at or near the third points on this grid and this tends to make a more interesting image. The opposite of this is to put the subject dead center of the frame which is what many snapshot folks do because that seems to be the most logical. I am photographing uncle Harry so put him front and center in the picture, right? Not really! What happens to centered images is that they look very static and don’t have much interest. When you balance the main point of your photo with other objects in the frame there is a chance for drama as your eye is led around the photo. You get a little sense of movement this way.

The rule of thirds is a good place to start but not every situation will fit that model perfectly so we see that composition is subjective in many ways. In the larger sense this is part of a technique called the figure field relationship. You take a object [figure] and place it on a background [field] and you move the object to a place that creates a visual interest between it and the rest of the photo. One good way to get a better idea of this is look at the work of other photographers and see where they placed their subjects in the frame.

Whether you have planned a photo shoot or are just catching things as they are presented, work at developing your skills to that second nature status. Taking great pictures is sometimes coordinating many factors in just a few seconds. Getting into position, making camera settings and framing your composition all in short order is what taking great pictures is all about. The difference between the casual shooter and the serious amateur or pro photographer is in the planning and thinking process. Also the pros only show you their selects. Till next time keep shooting.

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