A great photograph is no accident. When we talk about composition in photography what we are really talking about is how to arrange all of the elements in our image so that our viewers will see exactly what we want them to see. If the composition, the arrangement of the visual elements within your image, is jumbled then the message that your image seeks to convey gets lost. The stronger your composition, the more effective the message.
In the last lesson, I suggested that completely filling up the frame with your subject often makes for great images. In that tutorial, I pointed out that filling up the entire canvas with your subject gives your viewer’s eyes no choice but to see exactly what you want them to see. Eliminating everything but the subject from your photo is a powerful technique but it is not always possible or desirable.
In this tutorial, I talk about two classic ideas on how we can arrange the elements within our image to tell a compelling story. These two design concepts, The Rule Of Thirds and Powerpoints, are really useful when we are trying to tell a visual story that involves a relationship between a subject and its surroundings.
The first concept, and one that you will see again and again in landscape photography is called “the rule of thirds.” Basically, the rule of thirds says that you should stretch two imaginary lines across your canvas and that each line should be about a third of the way into the frame. We can use these imaginary grid lines to help us move our subject out of the center of the frame and thus to create a more engaging image.
One of the reasons that the rule of thirds, and the next concept which is called powerpoints, work well is because it encourages asymmetrical balance. Asymmetrical balance is a classic art idea in which the two sides of a piece of art are not identical, yet the overall composition still feels harmonious and evenly weighted. The human eye finds images with asymmetrical balance fascinating and engaging.
Ultimately, the more that you think about the relationship between your subject and its surroundings while you are out shooting photos the better that your art will become.