By Eugene Struthers
What is Composition?
Composition is the conscientious process that is applied using a set of fundamental principles as a guide. To capture thought-provoking, authentic, and aesthetically pleasing images.
The composition guide comprises:
a) What to crop (what portions of the image to include and exclude), b) The Rule of thirds (The correct positioning of your subject relative to your camera, c) Depth of field (What to have as your main focus and what to deliberately blur), d) Fill the frame (How to achieve a full frame of a subject to make it thought-provoking), e) Perspective (Capturing images from a different point of view), f) Structure & form (Using the subject to create contrast and dimension), g) Balance & Space (Less is more), h) Leading lines (Strategically placing lines in your frame to draw the viewers attention and focus deep into an image), i) Symmetry & Pattern (The repetition and structure of materials and texture, to create a uniform balance left to right and top to bottom), j) Viewpoint (Changing your camera angle and position relative to the size and distance from your model), k) Foreground & background (What to include and exclude in the foreground and background to create dimension and depth), l) Eliminate distractions (Being conscientious and aware of the environment and conditions you will be photographing in).
It doesn't matter if you have a £1000 or a £90 camera. If you haven't mastered the basic principles of composition, you won't capture great images.
Be a creative photographic artist, not a happy snapper.
Cropping refers to the removal of the outer parts of an image to improve framing, accentuate the subject, or change the aspect ratio. Depending on the application, this may be performed on a physical photograph, artwork, or film footage, or achieved digitally using image editing software.
The rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown above. You then position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet. The idea is that an off-centre composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame. It also encourages you to make creative use of negative space, the empty areas around your subject.
A less known and used rule. Is the Fibonacci "Golden Rule". Click here: Fibonacci
Controlling depth of field
Increase depth of field
Narrow your aperture (larger f-number)
Move farther from the subject
Shorten focal length
Decrease depth of field
Widen your aperture (smaller f-number)
Move closer to the subject
Lengthen your focal length
Click here: Depth of field
Nude in perspective: Bill Brandt.
Perspective, in the context of vision and visual perception, is how objects appear to the eye based on their spatial attributes, or their dimensions and the position of the eye relative to the objects.
Why fill the frame?
Photographers use this compositional technique to add elements of drama to visual aspects of the image. It adds mood to an image, as in the "Fine Art nude" photography. When the photographer has only captured a section of the model's body. By filling the frame you add more of a specific core element - and highlight the main important details. It helps to eliminate a distracting background. It always helps to previsualise before you pick up your camera. This is an excellent compositional rule for creating your style. A perfect option if you do fine art photography.
The use of lighting creates interconnected differential tonal and contrast levels between the highlights and mid-tones. To create two and three-dimensional levels to display depth and form. Great for displaying muscle tones and body shapes.
Structure is the broad, underlying colours, shapes and contrasts between light and dark area's. Photographers use structure in photography by using contrast to bring attention to the photograph. Click here: Zone system
If you have ever heard the phrase "less is more". You will know exactly how to balance the tone, colour contrast, and space within your image. This rule in balance and space is mainly used in "Fine art", "Commercial" and "Advertising photography". To draw the viewer's main point of focus onto the subject/model. This rule ties in with the rule of thirds. As you need to balance and position the main subject/model correctly in the frame to achieve the correct result. It can sometimes be termed negative space. As your model may be the only element in the frame. This compositional rule is great for adding depth and dimension to your image. It heightens the gravity and re-enforces the depth of field. A very important point to remember. If you choose one rule, make sure it ties in with another compositional rule. Or else you with find the compositional rule elements will oppose one another.
Symmetry in an image is portrayed by having the vertical or horizontal elements in balance with one another. You should be able to fold the image in half, and the left side should match or mirror the right, or the top should match the bottom half. Symmetry makes for pleasing images, especially when doing fine art urban nudes, the repetition of similar and same-sized windows and doors and corridors, etc. Allow the elements to give a natural balance to the overall feel of the image.
Pattern and texture use elements that are repeated throughout the image to create depth, enhance colour, and single out a particular element. Patterns can be found in architecture and everywhere where we live. Texture creates contrast and drama within an image. Texture can be man-made or natural. Symmetry and pattern are the go-to composition techniques if lost for ideas.
Previsualise what you want to have in the background and what will be your main focus elements in the foreground. Do you want high or low-key images? Or do you want to place the model against a contradicting environment to enhance her qualities, i.e. a topless model dressed as a circus clown in a legal courtroom? Which areas do you want crystal clear and sharp, and which are out of focus and blurred? Do you want to emphasize the back environment in the scene subtly to indicate a location, or do you want a blurred mass of colour. Do you want to pull your model away from a distracting background? Perhaps blurring the foreground or focusing on a sharp background, may convey the true scale of the depth within the image. Try to balance the tone and contrast within the image, so the model doesn't just fade away and become part of the background. The key is to distinguish the distance between the two, to show depth, focus, and mystery.
There can only be one Richard Avedon. And he perfected portraits of subjects against a white background. Learn from his technique and create your compositional style. Without a background or foreground, your images may not have any context. And the viewer may be lost as to what message you are trying to convey.
An image with a visual pathway using lines will draw our line of sight along these lines. So by capturing an image with a model placed strategically between or near the line. We are affecting the way the image is viewed. The lines pull the viewer into the image, towards the subject, and on into a journey through the whole image and scene. Lines can be presented in different ways - straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag and radial. They are great for creating depth within an image.
Be creative and mix up the camera position and angles. Previsualise how you want the image to appear before pressing the shutter release button. Think about where you are going to shoot the image from. The camera position and distance from the subject have a massive impact on the composition of the image and the message you are trying to convey. Different positions and angles create depth and allow for the whole image to be captured from different points of view. Most professional glamour photographers have a ladder or plastic sheeting so they can lay flat on the ground. To capture the subject in a 3d context with the ground in the foreground and the model and sky, high up in the background. The Key is to experiment with your camera position relative to the size of your subject matter.
You need to be conscientious and proactive when photographing in a built-up urban or rural area. Lower or raise your position to avoid capturing distracting elements. This could be several things. The smallest distraction in an image. Could stop you from selling your images to a magazine. If you are going for that urban grunge appearance to your images. Then make sure that the distracting element is in the background. And it is not only in one image.
The main rule would be to eliminate all distracting elements. What you might think of being quirky and unique. A picture editor won't. Read and study the magazine you want to submit your images to. Request a submission guideline from them. Perhaps phone and speak to the submissions team. You might find out that there are a lot more restrictions placed on you than you initially thought. The key is to be constantly observant of your surroundings.