1. The Rule of Thirds
Perhaps the most well know principle of photographic composition is the ‘Rule of Thirds‘.
The “Rule of Thirds” one of the first things that budding digital photographers learn about in classes on photography and rightly so as it is the basis for well balanced and interesting shots.
The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts.
The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.
2. Working the Lines in Your Photography (how to use horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines)
When considering the composition of an image one of the elements that I suggest digital camera owners look for are ‘Lines’.
The lines that can be found in images are very powerful elements that with a little practice can add dynamic impact to a photograph in terms of mood as well as how they lead an image’s viewer into a photo.
Learning how to use lines in photography doesn’t just happen. It takes time and practice to become good at it.
A good way to practice is to go back through older images that you’ve taken and look for lines that worked well and those that didn’t.
Then next time you go out with your camera, before you frame your shot consciously ask yourself what lines are in front of you and how you might use them to add something to your next shot by working with them rather than against them.
Also ask yourself whether the lines form any interesting patterns that you might be able to accentuate to add a further layer of interest to the shot.
Read the rest of this series so far at:
3. Finding Fresh Angles to Shoot From
The variety of perspectives that you can shoot images from is only limited by your imagination. In addition to standing in front of your subject you might like to try:
- lying or crouching in front of it
- climbing above it
- putting the camera on the ground and chancing it (some cameras with swing out LCD displays make this particularly easy as you can frame your shots rather than chancing it)
4. Getting Horizons Horizontal
This is an elementary mistake that many photographers make. It has the ability to spoil otherwise brilliant shots.
The simplest way to get your horizon horizontal simply line it up with the top or bottom of your view finder. Keep in mind that the edge of your frame in your viewfinder or LCD screen will be the edges of the actual image and will be the reference point for the eventual viewers of your shots to work out whether your shot is straight or not.
Many cameras also have markers in their view finder (often a rectangle or set of focussing spots). These can often be used to help line up your horizons mid frame.
Some cameras have a ‘rule of thirds’ mode where they overlay a grid in your LCD/viewfinder to show you where to place your points of interest. While they’re not intended to help you get your images stright – they can be helpful markers to show you where a level line is.
5. Fill Your Frame
So how do you fill your frame?
You’ve largely got three options:
- Use your Optical Zoom – most point and shoot digital cameras these days come with a zoom lens and all DSLRs are able to be fitted with one. Use them.
- Use your Legs – most photographers have a built in zoom in the form of their legs. Don’t just rely upon your cameras zoom but actually position yourself effectively for close in shots.
- Crop your Shots – the other option is to zoom in manually at home after you’ve taken your shots. This is a handy option to have but I personally prefer to use one of the first two options where I can because cropping shots later means if you want a large image that you’ll find that it becomes more pixelated. This is a good option if you’re just trimming shots but any major cropping will result in a loss of quality of your image.
6. The Importance of Focal Points
A focal point can be virtually anything ranging from a person, to a building, to a mountain, to a flower etc. Obviously the more interesting the focal point the better – but there are other things you can do to enhance it’s power including:
- Position – Place it in a prominent position – you might want to start with the rule of thirds for some ideas.
- Focus – Learn to use Depth of Field to blur out other aspects in front or behind your focal point.
- Blur – If you really want to get tricky you might want to play with slower shutter speeds if your main subject is still and things around it are moving.
- Size – making your focal point large is not the only way to make it prominent – but it definitely can help.
- Color – using contrasting colors can also be a way of setting your point of interest apart from it’s surroundings.
- Shape – similarly contrasting shapes and textures can make a subject stand out – especially patterns that are repeated around a subject.
Keep in mind that a combination of above elements can work well together.
7. Creating Active Space – Photographing Moving Subjects
Some call the space in front of a moving subject the ‘active space‘ in a photograph. Alternatively the space behind your subject is often called ‘dead space’.
The reason that this compositional technique is used is that when someone views an image and spots that your subject is moving in a direction – their eye naturally moves in that direction too. It’s quite instinctive.
Working with the way your viewer will instinctively view your image helps to create balance, drama and anticipation in your shot.
8. Getting Backgrounds Right
Strategies for Dealing with Distracting Backgrounds
- Move Your Subject
- Using Focal Length to Blur Backgrounds
- Place Subjects In front of Open Spaces
- Fill your frame with your subject
- Make your Own Background
9. Framing Your Shots
Framing is the technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene.
The benefits of framing pictures include:
- giving the photo context
- giving images a sense of depth and layers
- leading the eye towards your main focal point
- intriguing your viewer
10. How to Use Converging Lines to Enhance Your Photography
Tips Regarding Converging Lines
- Experiment with Positioning
- Wide Angle Lenses
- Adding Interest at the Point of Convergence
11. How to Break the ‘Rules’ of Photography
Yes, we can break rules. In fact, do not rush to do so. Take, practice, and when you know all the rules of composition, start to really create - Take them to break.