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Composition - Exploring it further

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    Default Composition - Exploring it further

    I thought I might drag this subject back up seeing as I'm seeing a few comments on the Rule of Thirds here and there in the forums again. This got me thinking about rules of photography.

    However, I want to explore different techniques and rules this time rather than debate their usefulness.
    For that you can visit these 2 threads...
    Composition
    Rule of Thirds


    Obviously, the most common is the Rule of Thirds.

    My opinion on this 'Rule' is firstly I really hate referring to it as a 'Rule' at all.

    I much prefer 'Guideline' now. The 'Guideline of Thirds' And judging by most of the more experienced members comments they seem to agree with this.
    I don't like to think we give newer members the impression that they must use rules like the 'Rule of Thirds' or their photo will be lesser quality in some way. There are no definitive rules in photography but there are ways to find your own way of getting better results and rules/guides can be helpful with that.

    I do think the 'Thirds' (I'm going to refer to it as 'Thirds' from now on ) is a great technique overall to learn and, in most cases, is a better composition than the 'Bullseye' (putting your subject dead centre) approach.

    What I've found though is that once I learned about the 'Thirds' I made great effort to apply it to most of my photography in some way. After a while however, I found myself applying it without giving it much thought at all. It had become almost habit or instinctual.
    Now, I find myself not thinking about any particular rule quite often. I simply frame the photo how I think it looks best in my viewfinder. Quite often it still qualifies as a 'Thirds' composition anyhow.
    I guess a few years of shooting several thousand photos finally does that. Or at least it did to me.


    Other Rules and Techniques?
    But what of other rules and guidelines? A quick search around brings up a few such as Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Balance, Radial Balance as other options. I’m yet to understand what these are exactly myself really.

    Does anyone use these?

    In terms of techniques to improve your compositions I can think of a few things off the top of my little head.

    Leading Lines & Patterns – Lines and/or patterns formed by elements within your photo that lead the viewers eye back to your subject(s)

    Depth of Field (DOF) – the area within your photo that’s in focus. If narrow it can be used to isolate your subject from a busy background by creating ‘bokeh.’ Bokeh is the out of focus areas in a photo. If the DOF is wide then it is used to show a larger amount of detail or encourage the viewer’s eye to ‘wander’ around the photo.

    Camera Angle – using different angles from which to shoot from
    Orientation - Choosing the best orientation (portrait, landscape or diagonal) for the subject

    Framing - Using elements in a scene to create a frame for the subject

    Foreground Interest – having something in the foreground that adds interest to the shot but doesn’t distract from the main subject.

    Lighting – used to enhance colour, texture (if not on camera, usually a side light source), silhouette, or perhaps backlighting to create highlights.

    Active/ Negative Space (also called 'Lead Room' I think) – using areas of primarily blank (maybe dark or blurred or simply void of detail) to isolate the subject or even create a sense of where the subject is looking or going to or has come from.

    Does anyone here give these sorts of things much thought in their compositions?

    Can you add anything to these or offer other techniques/rules/guides?

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    i agree with you completely. these are all guidelines for anyone to follow or not. it is not a law. but most beginning artists try to follow any or all guidelines when they produce their works and after years of following it, it is absorbed and becomes intuitive. they do not think about it anymore when they make their photosgraphic images, canvas, or any form of visual art.

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    Does it please my eye? Yes = good composition. No = bad composition!

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    This is a good list MA
    I guess I'd just like to add that in general it's nice to have a clear focal point(s) and this can often be aided through selective dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening).
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    One of the important concepts of composition is "visual weight" -- how much your eye is drawn to something in an image. There are a number of factors in this: Colour, brightness, size, contrast, inherent interest (something like a face or hands, has a lot more weight than, say, a shin), etc.

    The visual weight of the elements of an image then ties into the organisation (layout or composition) -- this is where all parts of the image affect the whole:

    This is a good starting list of factors:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composi...f_organization
    • Shape and proportion
    • Balance among the elements
    • Harmony, or consistency among the elements
    • The orientation of elements
    • The area within the field of view used for the picture ("cropping")
    • The path or direction followed by the viewer's eye when they observe the image.
    • Negative space
    • Color
    • Contrast: the value, or degree of lightness and darkness, used within the picture.
    • Geometry: for example, use of the golden mean
    • Rhythm
    • Illumination or lighting
    • Repetition (Sometimes building into pattern; rhythm also comes into play, as does geometry)
    • Perspective
    • Breaking the rules can create tension or unease

    (though some fall a bit more on technique than design element)

    I try to keep these in mind for every image -- each of those points has a number of factors tied to it, and you have to keep them all in mind. While it is fine to say if it is pleasing to your eye it is good composition, you'll take more better pictures if you can go through these items in a feedback loop as you adjust your composition. Consistent good composition is not an accident.

    As for a list of composition rules, it can be a bit confusing if you list both the guidelines for artistic composition along with photographic techniques like DOF and camera angle. The photographic techniques are just a means to an end, though it certainly can be useful to out them on a "things to try to change your composition" list. But if you just want to talk composition, you can take photography out of the discussion until you've got the basics covered.

    The "rule of thirds" is good starter for many photographers because it is very simple and easy to follow. For people used to shooting subject-dead-centre, just following the rule of thirds will pretty consistently improve their composition because often forces the subject into an area with more visual weight and commonly adds other elements such as negative space and asymmetry... As you better grok composition, you'll start to understand *why* it make images better, and then why you can get away with breaking the "rule" when you should.

    The elements of design are not a rigid list of rules or a checklist, but a web of factors that the parts of an image pull in all different ways. When you understand how and why they pull, you can better engineer the image you want.

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    Thanks for adding those thoughts guys. Very interesting. Keep em coming if you have em!

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    I guess for me, being a chef, composition is always very important when presenting food so I apply the same rules in photography....it's not really very different. The plate is the canvas and when presenting, everything must always appeal to the eye first and foremost because generally people eat with their eyes first.
    The rule of 3rds applies, as does negative space, contrast of colour, shape, and texture.
    I've used all those rules in my photography that were drilled into my head in culinary school and it seems to work for me....
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    That's so interesting Casil - I'm going to pay more attention to how my food LOOKS from now on. I do notice it when the food/plate looks particularly good but it's rare that I pay that much attention to it on a regular basis.
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    Notice also the relation to how it looks/presentation compared to how it tastes and I'll bet you 10 to 1 that if it looks good it most likely tastes good as well!
    "Life is like photography, we develop from the negatives"-anonymous
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    I would think that there are photography principals as much as there are design principals. However, what happens to pass for design principals and what are taught in schools are best used when they are broken seems too contradictory. If you can break a principal, for me it’s not one at all. For me a photography principal should not be breakable as well.

    So I started to look for ideas that are universal and unbreakable. I have collected up to 6,000 images on my USB drive from the web and studied them from an aesthetic/design perspective (yea I have serious O.C.D. issues). But, I asked my self what works and draw my interests in each image. Later I just kept reflecting and arranging my own take on the work I have seen.

    I believe for design there are just a few real design principals every good example of design has that I have seen. And if anyone finds examples to the contrary, let me know but I do not think there are contrary works. For me the only design principals I believe cannot be broken are:

    1. Simplicity/Economy (no more visual elements than what is needed)
    2. Clarity/Order ( Making the message or story more understandable or relatable removing the ambiguous or vague connotations)
    3. Unity/Harmony (all visual elements are telling the same story)
    4. Impact. (this one is more vague or subjective but it is essentially making the work stand out, memorable, engaging)

    Without each one of these you have a weakened design.

    Everything else I consider compositional strategies that you can use when appropriate to clarify, simplify, unite or add impact. like: Balance, Contrast, etc. I have found a long list of these and many are thought to be design principals.

    I am sure there are photographic principals that can apply too. The biggest difference between photography and design, however is that design is less about artistic expression and more about visual communication of a design message and design strategy.

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