Mastering the Art
Now here comes the fun part. Personally I
believe that the artistic skills of a photographer cannot be taught. Those are
skills that you have to hone. You can get twenty different people to take a
picture of one thing and you will get twenty different photographs. What I can
teach is the basics.
The art is called composition. It is the
balance of all things in a photograph. The elements, the way the light interacts
with those elements, the way those elements are arranged, are all part of a
photograph. That is just a small part of it. The art of composition has its
roots waaay back to the Renaissance. It is interesting to note that the
guidelines for creating a photograph were already established centuries before
the first camera was invented.
There are three different ways to layout the
elements in a photograph. One, is to fill the frame. This will provide a clear
description of what the photograph is about. Two, is the "rule of thirds". Three
is the "golden mean". Both of these provide a means to capture the background in
the photo as well a creating a compelling photograph that guides the eye of the
Rule of Thirds
This is fairly basic. Simply divide the frame
into three parts, then place the subject (Green spots) on the two dividers (Red
lines). See the diagram below.
Figure 1.) The rule of
This is also basic but a bit more obscure.
Mentally draw a line (Red line) from corner to corner of the frame. Then draw a
line from the opposite corners to the line. The subject should lie at the
intersection of these two lines. (Green spots) The reason for the obscurity of
the technique is that it was developed in ancient Greece. Hence we have had more
time to forget about it.
Figure 2.) The golden
The golden mean and the rule of thirds are so
similar, that I'll focus upon the rule of thirds. I've done this for the sake of
These basic rules are the basic building
blocks of composition. The aim here is to create a visually compelling
photograph, something that captures the attention of the viewer. The rule of
thirds and the golden mean aim to create a photograph that leads the eye of the
viewer around and tells a story behind the photograph. The trick of the
photographer is to arrange those elements to allow the photograph to tell the
story as the photographer would like it to be told. It is true that a photograph
is worth a thousand words and photographers are the ones that write them.
Other Compositional Elements:
Find a Clear Center of Interest
Self explanatory. Find something that
captures you eye. Try to avoid distracting objects or shadows.
Fill the Frame
I think Robert Capa, a WWII photojournalist
said it best, when he said, "If you're pictures are not good enough, they you're
probably not close enough." Get the subject into the frame so there is no doubt
what the photo is all about.
Present a Clear Message
Try to avoid anything that would distract
people from your main subject. Focus on the subject. Then before you press the
shutter, check the edges of the frame for anything that would distract the
Have fun with your subject. Look for
repetition or patterns. Keep your eye out for diagonals which are always
interesting. Scan for contrasting colors and shapes.
Use the aperture to create depth. Make
objects in front and behind your subject a little out of focus. This will
provide the effect that isolates the subject from the background. Focuses
attention on the subject.
Light and Dark
Basically light tones advance while dark
tones retreat. Most people look at the lighter portions of a photograph
Vertical and horizontal are bad, diagonal is
good. Psychologists say that instincts honed back our caveman days are
responsible for that. Diagonal images are visually more interesting that
vertical and horizontal.
This is the use of elements in the foreground
to frame the object in focus.
This is the basics of composition. I'll
try to devote some more time to describing each one of the compositional
elements in more detail.
Vertical lines emphasise power, strength, and
Horizontal lines express
stability and width.
express dynamic energy.
Composition - Rule of Thirds.
No one photographer knows everything there is
to know about photography. The knowledge in here is the knowledge I have
gathered after taking a lot of pictures and reading a lot of books. I will not
claim to know everything, so don't take my word as final. Go out and learn on
your own too. Also feel free to argue with me.
Michael Fodor firstname.lastname@example.org