Generally the term composition means
Photographic composition is simply the selection and
arrangement of subjects (elements) within the picture area.
Effective photo composition is made by:
1. Placing objects in appropriate positions.
2. Choosing an appropriate point of view.
3. Waiting for the opportune moment.
Some rules of composition
• Rule of thirds
• Visual cropping
• Vantage Point, where the photographer stands
• Perspective (scale)
• Moving in close
• Leading lines
• Converging lines
• This is more a guideline then a rule.
• The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or
along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a
viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally.
Create impact by photographing your subjects from
unexpected angles. Imagine yourself as an electron
spinning around the subject, which is the nucleus of an
nUse of frames, lines & diagonals
Create impact by using frames and real or inferred lines
that lead the viewer's eye into and around the picture
lines are two
or more lines
of the frame,
and meeting at
a single point.
Framing – use what’s around you
to frame your images.
Some images appear almost symmetrical about either the vertical or
horizontal axis. This can lead to a very calm, balanced effect. However,
there is often more to this than meets the eye.
Andreas Gursky - 99
print, 6 ft. 9 1/2 in. x
11 ft. 5/8 in.
The composition of this massive image, nearly 12 feet in length, appears almost
symmetrical – ordered, balanced and unemotional. It suggests that the
photographer is taking an entirely objective view. However, people seem to be
relatively insignificant in this temple to commerce and the dizzying quantity and
variety of products on display is quite disconcerting.
Order and chaos co-exist
A symmetrically arranged environment is disordered in William
Eggleston’s exposed interior of a freezer.
Together and apart?
Evidence of domestic harmony or the site of conflict? Nan Goldin’s beds are
Robert Frank’s use of a grid-like composition in this famous image serves
to highlight the racial, class, age and gender differences which the
photographer observed in the compartmentalised society of 1950s USA.
Influenced by abstract art and industrial design, photographers
sometimes create grid-like compositions. Pattern and repetition are often
important concerns, and often the grid is comprised of more than one
Lewis Baltz - Park City Interior #94
Ray Metzker - Untitled, 1966-7
Ray Metzker’s large composite grid is
constructed from 63 individual
photographs of a Chicago street scene.
From a distance, the viewer sees only an
abstract pattern. Closer up, the multiple
elements become legible.
Photographers often choose dramatic angles and off-kilter compositions
to create a sense of dynamism.
Jaroslav Rossler Untitled. Petrin Tower 1924-6
Berenice Abbott - El at Columbus Avenue and
Broadway c. 1935-39
Abbott utilises a high viewpoint in order to
emphasise the dynamic rhythms of city life.
Thrusting diagonals and an asymmetrical
arrangement of forms suggest energy and flux.
Compare and contrast
Harry Callahan – Eleanor, Chicago 1953
Garry Winogrand – New York Zoo, 1964
Horizontals and verticals
Order and logic
Dynamism and energy
Jerry Uelsmann - Untitled, 1965
All over compositions
Sometimes, photographers attempt to describe scenes which are so
complex that the eye struggles to perceive a pattern to the arrangement
of forms. These photographs are similar in effect to looking at an abstract
painting by Jackson Pollock.
Garry Winogrand - The American Legion
Convention, Dallas, Texas 1964
Jackson Pollock - Untitled. (c. 1950). Ink on paper