As a photographer, it is tempting to see the world through your viewfinder as you would when simply looking at a scene in normal life - i.e. from eye level with the subject up smack dab in the center of the frame. While this mimics how we normally look at things, and achieves the admirable goal of giving the subject prominence, I want to share with you a way to create more dynamic and engaging photographs.
|Our natural inclination is to place a subject in the middle of the
frame. I call this 'bulllseye' composition and it can result in rather
|Dividing the image area into thirds along both the horizontal and vertical axes, the goal is to give equal compositional weight to each grid, with special emphasis on the intersections of the gridlines. As opposed to being positioned in the center of the frame, here our subject occupies the rightmost third of the frame. His eye (a main point of interest) sits at the intersection of two gridlines. This compositional technique is commonly referred to as the Rule of Thirds.|
Experiment with placing your subjects along the various intersections of these grid lines. It may take some time to break the habit of centering your subject, but this extra attention to compositional detail will pay big dividends, taking your photography to a more professional level. Here are some examples.
To see more examples of this compositional technique, simply open a magazine. Print advertising often features subjects placed off-center to make room for the ad copy; something to explore the next time you're in the dentist's office. Now let's see how to put the rule of thirds into action using a portraiture example. Eyes are very expressive and can often be the most compelling feature of the photograph. So careful attention to their placement in the frame can pay big dividends. Consider our compositional options for the following image.
|Shifting the subject to the right provides a much more balanced composition. Our attention remains on the child and the toy fire engine supplies a secondary area of interest that adds to the narrative of the image.|
We've seen how easy it is to create a more dramatic composition simply by avoiding the center of the frame. Placing your subject near the edges does not diminish its importance. Just the opposite. It can now draw even more attention in a way that helps create a dynamic narrative. So before you press the shutter on your next shot, move things around for a more vibrant, engaging result.
Amadou Diallo is a technical writer at dpreview, photographer and author of books on digital image editing and travel photography. His fine art work can be seen at diallophotography.com.
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