Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Tips For Better Composition

Some people have a natural knack for composition. They can just look a scene and effortlessly create a perfect image that you could stare at for hours. These five tips are for the rest of us.

Rule Of Thirds:  Draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board on your frame with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines There will be four points where the lines intersect. These are your "sweet spots" and are great areas to put your subject in to create a dynamic composition. If your subject is tall, place it along one of the vertical lines. Place subjects like horizons along one of the horizontal lines. Put your subject in the center and the viewer only looks at one spot. An eye stuck in one spot tends to get bored. I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it.

Lines Create Depth:  Most landscape photos have a foreground and background. If these two are divided in half, the viewer's eye gets trapped in one spot. Use natural lines (like patterns in the sand, driftwood on the beach, or meandering streams) to lead the viewer back and forth between the foreground and the background. An interesting composition keeps the eye constantly moving back and forth across the image. Connect the "sweet spots" with the lines and now we're talkin' composition.

Patterns Are Fun:  Repeat this phrase...Repeat this phrase...Repeat this phrase. There is something comforting about repeating patterns. Maybe it is in our nature to try to create order, maybe we like things neat and tidy, or maybe we can't find anything else to photograph. Look for ripples in the sand, leaves scattered across the ground, or clouds floating across the sky then fill the frame with that and nothing else. Repeating patterns keep the eye moving and the viewer interested.

Keep It Simple: Less is more. There is nothing that can ruin an image faster than visual clutter. Unless you have an amazing pattern in front of you, try everything you can to eliminate every single bit of unneeded stuff in your photo. Change your camera angle, use a longer lens to fill the frame with the subject, or blur the background to eliminate the dead tree branches behind your subject. Just please, for the love of Kodachrome, keep it simple.

Find A Frame: No, I'm not talking about  scouring the local garage sales for pieces of wood and glass. When you are composing the image, look for natural subjects like trees, clouds, or cliffs to frame the image and direct the eye towards the subject. If an eye wanders out of the frame, it will probably keep on wandering until it finds something else interesting to look at. Chances are it won't be your photo.

Next time you are setting up your camera, try to keep these five tips in mind. If you use even one of them, you will create a better composition and come home with a better photograph. If you use all five, you may just create a work of art.

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