This is another illustration/painting technique that photographers must master (soit can then be broken). The Rule of Thirds divides the canvas/film frame with threevertical lines and three horizontal lines. The four intersecting vertices are the keypoints to remember, as studies have demonstrated that the human eye goes tothose points first when looking at a framed object like a painting, sketch, orphotograph. Therefore, when you are composing the photograph, placing the keyelements at one of those four points enhances the dynamics of your photo. Take alook at the photo above, and imagine how much less interesting it would be if thelittle girl was placed smack dab in the middle of the photo. The background wouldseem like an afterthought, not a really part of the composition as it is now (themischief on the little girl’s face is amplified by the slight understanding of thebackground… a carnival perhaps?).The Rule of Thirds
Focus the Viewers AttentionTo raise the quality of your photos you must make sure that the main subjectis of heightened interest and is effectively positioned in the frame to draw theviewer’s eye exactly to where you want it, and emphasize that subject. Thiscan be done in a variety of creative, artistic and symbolic ways. Size, color,shape and how the object contrasts with the rest of the elements in the image(foreground, middle ground and background) are ways to isolate and directattention to the subject.
Balance, Layout, ArrangementThe layout of your images influences how visually effective or stimulating your photos will be. When composingyour photo, seek a balance in the color, the lighting, and object placement within the frame’s constrictingrectangle. When we talk about “balance” in a photograph, we mean a composition that has arranged the visualelements in such a way as to be pleasing to the eye. We’ve all seen group photos (of friends and family) in whichthe subjects are stuck in the center of the frame with no apparent design other than to fit everyone in the frame,and without regard to effectively filling the frame either. This typical shot lacks interesting composition in thelayout, and there’s probably way too much empty space above their heads as well. You seek to achieve interestingcomposition and perspective by being creative with where and how you physically position the camera, such thatthe composition has a unique perspective, or view of the world. For example, if you put the camera at the level ofthe floor when your pet or baby approaches the camera, that photo has a much more interesting composition andperspective than if the camera were held at full height while looking down at the pet or baby. Like many artconcepts, perspective and composition is either instinctual, or it can be developed through practice and study.
Crop and Clip!One of the beauties of digital photography is the relative ease with which you can dopost-processing, something formerly reserved for the darkroom. With Photoshop youcan crop an image for better aesthetic results. Cropping is the process of re-framing aphotograph to enhance the composition. We’ve all seen (or perhaps taken) photoswhere there are distracting elements at the edges of frame, or perhaps intruding on thesecondary areas of the main subject. You can crop the photo to eliminate theseunwanted elements. In this photo, you can see that the original had too much headroomand another photographer was standing in the photo! By cropping the frame, one zerosin on the main subject (the family). Eliminate the photographer from the photo, but stillkeep recognizable elements in view to inform the viewer as where the photo was taken.
Use ContrastContrast -- in lighting -- is another way to add dimension to an image. Lighting contrast is the difference between thelightest light and the darkest dark in a photograph. Manipulating this element, works wonders to extend the depth,the three-dimensional quality of a photograph - one of the great feats and benchmarks for your photographs. You canalso use contrast in shape & size to affect the intricacy of your photos; contrasting geometry inherently creates thatdramatic tension that we were talking about earlier. You feel like there is more to “the story”. The photo of the EiffelTower above employs contrast in lighting and size to increase the effectiveness of this photo. The man in silhouetteappears to be nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and the complex pattern of the Eiffel Tower (more pronounced insilhouette) seems to be etched into the pulsating red sunset sky. Imagine how lackluster this image would be if it wastaken at noon.
Blur the BackgroundA photograph can have a blurry foreground or background, so this special opticalproperty can enhance the composition of your photos by further isolating the mainsubject from everything else around it. You can blur the background or foreground byhaving command over the depth of field, which is controlled by the lens’ aperture, focallength and object’s distance from the lens. Mastering this skill is critical for moreinteresting images. The wider apertures (f/1.4 to f/2.8) effectively reduce DOF, as dolonger focal length lenses.
Pay Attention to DetailsAs with everything else in life, the details need to be properly addressed and emphasized inphotography. Every detail can do something different to your photograph or create a newmeaning. A photo of a flower is much different when you can see the way the morning dewplays against the texture of the flower’s petals. When doing a portrait, use lighting to bringout the heavy laugh lines and crow’s feet on a person’s face. Character in a face makes aninteresting portrait. If you think about it, it is the details of objects and people that delvebeneath the surface and tell more of a story, more about that singular moment in time.
Opt for SimplicityThe concept of less is more lends itself effectively to just about everything, andphotography is no exception. Overly complicated or complex photographic compositionhas the same problem as compound complicated sentences in writing, which make itdifficult for the audience to understand and appreciate the idea that is trying to beconveyed. Simple in this context doesn’t mean simplistic, but rather lacking unnecessaryelements that confuse or are redundant. In photography creating uncluttered, but distinctcompositions simplify yet enhance the delivery of the idea. The mind’s eye of the viewercan do all the heavy lifting.Differences in PerspectivePerspective is how the photographer views the objects in the camera frame via theplacement of the camera. For example, the same subject will have different perspectiveswhen photographed at eye level, from above or from ground level. By varying theperspective you change the placement of the horizon line and you influence youraudience’s perception of the scene. For example, if you placed the camera on the groundlevel to take a full-body photo of someone, and angled the camera up to fill the framewith your subject, he or she will appear much more menacing, powerful and larger thanif the camera was held at eye-level. Another way to look at differeing perspective is toutilize camera positions that are atypical to what the human eye sees. Bird’s eye views orextremly high angles change the dynamics of your composition.