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Photography Composition PDF Print E-mail

Photography composition is perhaps one of the first skills you might learn as a photographer. After all, properly composing a photograph is a vital component to an aesthetically pleasing picture.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are seeking to improve your photography composition; I hope they help!

Choosing Your Subject

It may seem like something not worth noting, but photography composition usually begins with a subject! After all, why did you pick up the camera before you left home? What were you intentions on doing with that camera? Obviously, it was to take a picture of something or someone and this would be your subject.

So, having said that, when you are ready to put that viewfinder in front of your eye, you should have identified what your subject will be for that particular shot. Is it a house? A model? A waterfall? The beauty of it all, is that you get to choose the subject of your photography; you're the boss (unless you're on assignment getting paid, then the pressure is on!).

Selecting Your Angle

Now that you have a subject to compose in your photography, there's something else you should consider in your photography composition, and that is selecting your angle.

What I mean by this, what kind of viewpoint are you looking to establish? Your position in relation to your subject will determine the overall outcome, feeling, and effect you will be communicating to your viewer.

Imagine this scenario. You just drove into Zion National Park and you are utterly amazed at the sheer height of the cliffs that surround you. The thought comes into your mind that you want to convey man's 'smallness' in relation to the 2,000 - 3,000 feet cliffs to your left and right. What would be your best angle as you consider your composition? Would you rather be in a helicopter looking down? Or, would you like to be near the base of the geological feature looking slightly up?

Which angle do you think would properly convey your thought? Mostly likely it would be option two!

Whether you are photographing mountains, a building, or a person, selecting the angle of your camera in relation to your subject is vital. I will sometimes take a few: one squatting down, one eye-level, and one perhaps standing on something to elevate my viewpoint. Give it a try; experiment!

Rule of Thirds   Photography Technique

EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm IS Lens

Framing Your Subject - The Rule of Thirds

Now that you have your subject and angle picked out, it's time to think about framing of your subject. Proper photography composition has a few important factors, but this, perhaps, is just about the most important.

Many people who are picking up the camera for the first time will, by instinct, place their subject right in the middle of their viewfinder.

Does this produce great images? Sure it does. Can you get a different feel/look? Of course. There's always room for improvement.

There is a "rule" commonly known amongst photographers called "The Rule of Thirds". Here's what it means.

In the example given above (composing your subject in the exact center of the picture), you basically are creating two halves to the picture: one on the left of your subject, and one on the right.

In order to create a different mood to your photography, try this instead.

When looking through your viewfinder, imagine that it is split up into 3 equal parts, or thirds, both vertically and horizontally. This would produce a total of 9 rectangles (see photo above).

To achieve proper photography composition using this 'rule', try offsetting your subject by placing it between the first two thirds on the left or right, and between the first two thirds on the top or bottom. Do you see a difference?

If you can't make up your mind and you are shooting digital, take a few different shots and review them later to pick the best you like. 'Tis the beauty of digital photography!

Conclusion

In reviewing these three basic factors of photography composition, I hope you consider them and that they help you refine your skills. Remember, photography begins with basics and builds on them, just like anything else in life.

Just don't forget to have fun!

 

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