Knowledge of Composition

Need a text to explain your pictures? You should think about becoming a writer!

Your friends remain silent, listening to your lengthy explanation of the picture before their eyes. Five minutes later, your oratory momentum has not yet run out and your friends still haven't quite gotten it. If, as the proverb says, a picture is worth a thousand words, and you plan on proceeding this way for your entire roll of film, you should be thinking about asking them to stay overnight!

Now let's be a little more serious and take a look at the ways you can get your pictures to speak for themselves. To do this, you should remember one thing: try to create a balance between the different elements that make up your picture. You can take it for granted that the eye is naturally lazy and has the habit of reading from left to right and from top to bottom. This having been said, we will now attempt to take advantage of these observations.

The Rule of Thirds

Following the rule of thirds is one of the most basic means of ensuring that a picture will be viewed quickly and efficiently. It consists in positioning the main elements of your composition in one or the other of the zones making up the entire frame.

We will divide the picture to be taken by means of three vertical and three horizontal lines, so as to split it up into nine equal parts. The main subject should ideally be positioned at the top or at the bottom and to the right, which will help the eyes of the viewer go from left to right, the same as when reading a written document. Several other secondary elements can be located in the other thirds of the picture so as to create L-shaped, triangular or S-shaped compositions. All such compositions are sure to lead the eye to the main subject.

Have a look at the following pictures:

Knowledge of Composition photography tips 1
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 2
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 3

Using lines

Horizontal lines create an atmosphere of calm and tranquility in a photograph. Let's take a seascape, for example, with a horizon and a row of clouds; now add a boat leaving a trail behind it. The resulting picture is the epitome of tranquility!

Vertical lines, convey strength and confidence. There are many examples. Just think of a row of hundred-year-old trees, an office tower, or any other vertical structure.

As for diagonal lines, they influence viewing speed and add action to any composition. For example, instead of taking a picture of a child keeping your camera level, tilt it to create a diagonal shot of your subject. You'll see how much difference this type of framing makes in terms of adding life and vitality to your pictures.

Here are some examples:

Knowledge of Composition photography tips 4
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 5
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 6

Curved and Round Shapes

Elements arranged in a circle around the main subject have a framing effect. Let's take a landscape as an example. In the background is our main subject, a mountain. The foreground is made up of leafy branches, and the centre, of sparse branches. Because it surrounds the main subject, this type of composition helps us focus on the mountain and keeps our gaze from wandering away from the picture.

A half-moon composition will make the viewer look in a certain direction and have him focus on the main subject while allowing his eyes to gaze beyond it. The arch of a suspended bridge and the round shape of boats in the foreground enable us to gaze freely upon the surrounding lake and mountains.

As for an oval composition, it will add volume to your subject. Different ingredients making up a dish and placed in an oval around the plate will convey the impression that the plate is fuller. This way of positioning items also allows you to add several secondary elements to reinforce and support the main subject.

Have a look at these pictures:

Knowledge of Composition photography tips 7
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 8
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 9

Colours and Hues

Colours are very useful for the composition of photographs, as they let you highlight what you want to convey. The use of beige, for example, will make your pictures more static and neutral. More vibrant and contrasting colours, such as yellow and blue, however, promote faster viewing. In the same vein, grey and blue used together create a reassuring feeling. And combined with green, these colours convey a sense of complete tranquility.

Hues have a specific effect on your pictures-that of separating the elements of the various parts of your composition. Just think of morning dew in a foreground of a medium hue, with a hint of whitish fog created by evaporation at the centre, and, in the background, the black silhouette of mountains. The more hues there are, the more the eye will wander non-stop from one part of the picture to the next.

See for yourself:

Knowledge of Composition photography tips 10
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 11
Knowledge of Composition photography tips 12

Last but not least, here's a word of advice: Forget about composing written captions for your photographs and develop the new art of photo composition. In other words, observe and analyze before you push the button!

Go for it, and Happy Shooting!

With the cooperation of Jacques Bourdages, PFE..