1 Compositional Rules
'It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them'
- T.S. Eliot, interview with The Paris Review (Issue 21, 1959)
A number of 'rules of composition' or guidelines exist that we can use to improve our images. The most commonly known ones have been formulated over the centuries by artists working in a variety of visual mediums, from architecture to painting and photography. And while we all know the saying, 'rules were meant to be broken', there's clear benefit to understanding just what it is you're 'breaking' in the first place.
In this article, we'll go over three of these established compositional rules, with examples that illustrate their concepts, and discuss why they are useful creative tools.
Perhaps the most popular technique with which visual artists are familiar is the 'Rule of Thirds'. Simply put, the idea is that significant compositional elements be placed along imaginary lines that break the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Elements of particular interest can be placed at the intersection of these lines, for a more expressive and dynamic composition, as demonstrated in the pair of images below.
|This composition is perfectly centered on the sand dune.||Here, the ridge of the dune crest and the horizon were framed along imaginary lines that break the image into a 3 x 3 grid.|
The rule of thirds was first formalized in literature by painter John Thomas Smith in 1797. However, examples of art using this type of composition can be found in artistic traditions dating back to antiquity. East Asian art is particularly well-known for its use of asymmetrical compositions.
So why does using the rule of thirds help to create interesting images?
With any of the compositional techniques discussed in this article, we are are seeking to highlight certain elements in the image and create a compelling balance between elements.
Creating a 'thirds' composition often introduces asymmetry into an image which helps to create a sense of drama that can be lacking in perfectly symmetrical images.
In the image below, you can see that the eyes of both the model and the horse rest along the imaginary grid. And the horse's right eye is located at the intersection of two gridlines. Eyes are obviously strong compositional elements. Our gaze is naturally drawn to the eyes of others. Placing important elements like these - whether a body part or a product for sale - along the thirds grid helps to draw attention to them.
|Note the placement of the model's eye and the horse's eyes along the
'thirds grid'. When photographing people or animals, the eyes are
generally good compositional elements to highlight.
Before we continue, I should point out that while there are obvious benefits to framing your image with the rule of thirds in mind, you can still reap its compositional benefits post-capture by cropping. In fact, the fastest way to train yourself to 'see' in thirds is to spend some time experimenting with crops of your existing images and compare both versions.
In addition to being useful for determining placement of fine-grained features such as a model's eye, the Rule of Thirds can be used with coarse-grained features that affect that overall balance of the composition. The landscape image at the beginning of the article is an example of this, where the Rule of Thirds was used to determine placement of the horizon line and major geological features.
Here is another example where this rule is used to create balance in a dynamic composition. In this image, the model occupies only the center and right-most thirds of the image. The left-most third of the image is negative space, providing a strong sense of movement through contrast and the progression of tonal values in the image.
Try to visualize how the image would look if instead, the model was positioned squarely in the center of the frame. The composition would lose not only much of its drama but also its sense of motion.
|Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan by User9320321874|
|Yellow Warbler by LeeS|
from A Big Year - birds
|Waiting for the Parade by tcoker1103|
from - La Vida Loca - (Black and White Street Photography+ A Border)
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not known as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you know where to look. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.