Photograph Composition: The Foundation of Exceptional Images

Feb 05, 2006

The most fundamental aspect of photography is the art of composition; that is, how objects in an image relate to each other and their background. It can be subtle and should always precise, and its students will find taking exceptional images suddenly more and more intuitive. Read on to learn about the importance of balance, flow, symmetry and more.

The Rule of Thirds

One of the most often-repeated pieces of composition tips is to use the “rule of thirds” — which is to say, align the main subject of the photo with the intersection of the horizontal and vertical one-third lines. Yet there are many other ratios many of which can provide for a much more interesting image flow. These include the Golden Ratio, a spiral-form version that draws the viewer’s eye through to the center with ease or using 5th or 8th’s instead of thirds. These other ratios derive from the Renaissance and the Greeks (Ionic Harmonies). Regardless, you will note that we are talking about a variety of ratios rather than just a single ratio. This gives the photographer many more options for the maximum use of the image space to convey the appropriate sense of place and space. (The bonus to any of these ratios is that they automatically provide for a built-in border around the main subject, making cropping a simple task).

Working with Color Composition

It’s generally advisable for the less experienced photographer to get a firm handle on the basic principles of using color as a compositional element in basic primary colors and tones before moving on to more complex full-color images. However, hues and shades play their own role in the process. The grid pattern of a fence can be sharply set off by a sunset’s riot of crimson and orange, for example. Conversely, an image with gorgeous rule-of-thirds alignment can be thrown out of whack by a clashing color splashed over the main palette.

The world of composition is deceptively simple. Anyone with eyes can appreciate the harmonious balance of a well-composed image, but few will take the time to learn the true extent of its nuances or how it is put together. Our lecture series on Composition through Form and Color will give you not only these basic principles, but show you how to apply them in a variety of situations.

Visit our other blog posts to find out more about how just a simple adjustment or novel use of equipment can transform your images from the ground floor up.