Photography Composition Articles


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Image Balance



Guidelines for Better Photographic Composition: Discussion

Portrait of old woman

Now let's look at a few prizewinning photos and see why the judges gave them such high scores. In this picture titled Afternoon Chat, the photographer arranged the subjects in a simple, well-balanced composition. He also made good use of diagonal lines. Remember, of course, that these are only guidelines; so you can bend or even break them and still create fine photographs . . .

Portrait of old woman

. . . like this. The photographer actually strengthened this prizewinner by ignoring a few guidelines and composing this subject in the center of the format. The strength of the subject and the simple black background make this one work.

Close-up of frog

Here's another winner. Why? Well because it's an extremely interesting picture that makes good visual sense, and that's just as important as our list of guidelines. The chances are you'll use only a few guidelines at a time. For instance, this picture of a frog is an excellent example of a close-up. It makes good use of simplicity and, despite its centrally placed horizon, it has viewer impact.

Baby reflected in mirror

Impact - here it is again. This has that elusive quality called human interest. So be an opportunist and capture these fleeting moments even if you overlook a few guidelines. You can make some corrections after you take the picture. For instance, you can trim or enlarge just a portion of your pictures as we've indicated here with these cropping lines.

Boy with cat on shoulder-cropping example

This picture is cropped to a square format. Is that really the way you'd like it? To see if you'd like to change its proportions, hold your hands out in front of you and try cropping this as a vertical. You've probably seen artists do this. Now try a horizontal cropping. This is a good way to look at pictures, improve them, and develop your photographic eye.

Portrait of woman-horizontal cropping example

Here's a simple cropping guideline. Include the portions of your subject that you feel are most interesting and important. For instance, you may like this portrait of Pat in a square format, or cropped to a horizontal.

Portrait of woman-vertical cropping example

However, many people prefer portraits of individuals that are cropped vertically. The subjects seem to fit better. The choice, of course, is yours.

What Do You Think?

Woman riding horse on beach

Here's a photograph that has simplicity and a strong center of interest. The photographer composed it with plenty of extra space around the subject to permit a variety of print croppings. How would you crop this picture-horizontal or vertical? And where would you place the center of interest?

Composition example

Do the flags contribute to the composition of this picture? Are those flags really needed? To find out, hold a pencil up in front of you and block out the flaps. Can you explain why the flags help or hinder good composition?

2 views of couple in woods

Which of these views do you prefer? Can you explain why?

Can you explain the compositional strength or weaknesses of these next three photos? Use some of the guidelines we've mentioned and add some of your own reactions to these photographs.

Child crying


 8 man skull     

Girl hugging cat

You can use your talents in photographic composition in many different ways. Now it's your turn.


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