7 Easy Rules of Photography Composition

It’s been a while since I’ve written about photography and it is still one of the biggest parts of my life… so here are some of the things I have learnt over the past 8 years.
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Photography composition takes a beautiful photo and makes it great. It also makes you slow down the snapping and get you to think about the subject and also what you are trying to convey. After all, photography is a form of art, and a great work of art does indeed take time. That is part of the beauty of it.

1) Don’t Restrict Yourself to Landscape.

The only things that should ever be kept landscape is phone pictures and video. Then again these are just unspoken rules, but vines would have looked so much better if people just turned their phone 90 degrees to fill the screen.
Using a Vertical format for a landscape image does something magical to a subject.

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Aberystwyth Jetty, Ceredigion, UK – July 2016, Canon 6D 70-200mm f/2.8
In Landscape photography it is expected that you deliver landscape shots. However, to make your photography have an impact, there needs to be an element of the unexpected.
Additionally, a vertical frame gives you a taller area to deal with the foreground and the background. This really got me with seascapes, especially as sunset as it meant that I could pull down the colours of the sky and pull up the colours of the sea to create this balanced equinox of blue sky, blue sea melded with the sun’s evening display.

2) Lines!

 Lines are hands down my favourite thing to photograph. If you look at works by Rodchenko and the way he use lines in his black and white photographs, you may too be converted to the line life.
ALEXANDER RODCHENKO 1930
Aleksander Rodchenko 1930
Straight lines can be beautiful, but don’t limit yourself there! Try to find a converging point, get lower to the ground and take the risk of getting a bit dusty for a shot. Or just try out several framings for a certain line. Find a line that makes your eyes follow into the depth of your image.
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Adriana, Byward Locks, Ottawa – Canon 6D 50mm f/1.8
HardKnott Roman Fort
HardKnott Fort, Cumbria, August 2017 – Lumix G7 (standard kit lens)
A good way to start with lines is to find a good building and play around with the lines against the sky or finding the lines within the building itself and take many many photos of different compositions to see for yourself what works best for you. Back in 2011 I did this in a Sainsbury’s Carpark in the UK and found some crazy shapes and lines I didn’t think I could find in a carpark!

3) Patterns & Symmetry

We are drawn to balance. This is what makes patterns and symmetry so powerful in any form of art, whether it is written word, traditional art, photography or even music. Patterns can be found in anything from manmade materials such as fences, buildings and pathways or naturally occurring such as plants, landscape and skylines.

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Llandudno

In this example of the pier in Llandudno the use of leading lines only emphasises the symmetry of the pier. What makes me really happy about this photo is the colour palette of muted blue and grey that balances the symmetrical properties. (Of course this is just an individual opinion and some may not like the balance and colours of this image, but of course art is individual and the artist does indeed know best 90% of the time.

4) Negative Space

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Le Mont Saint Micheal, France – Canon 6D, 18-40mm f/4.0

Negative space can be anything from a plain blue sky to a low aperture mush of colour. It is space that is not filled. We want to focus on a single subject the majority of time so use this to your advantage. Arguably you can use patterns as a negative space element, so long as it does not detract from the main visual, you’re good.

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Lake Windemere, UK – Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4.0
Don’t be afraid to use backgrounds as well like block colours, walls, floor for negative space with a subject. Also filling the frame with the subject/object can also have an effect much the same as negative space.

5) Natural Frames

Let things get in the way once in a while. Sometimes not having a “clear shot” is more interesting. While trawling the internet for examples of frame shots its always pictures of people in doorways and windows and I feel thats not a natural frame. Sure it looks cool and creates a frame in the photo, but it is not the kinda image that challenges the artist to get.

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Blue Planet Aquarium, Ellesmere Port, UK – Canon 6D 50mm f/1.8

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Lake Windemere, UK, Canon 6D 24-105mm f/4.0

6) Focus Focus Focus

Where is the focus at? Are you concentrating on something close up or far away, and if so what levels of depth does your potential subject have? In this instance, take off the auto focus on your lens and really get in tune with what you want to capture.

7) Make Mistakes

This may seem like a stupid point, but I can not implore how important it is to f*ck up once in a while. If you don’t then how do you know you have grown or improved? There needs to be the balance of amazing yourself at what you can do as well as having the ability to review your work and realise what you can do better or what needs to be improved on.

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