New To Photography:Basic Composition

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This page is a chapter in the book Composing a Picture.
Composition is not just about composing the subject, but about composing the subject and yourself.

When composing your subject and yourself, there are many opinions and rules to think about, although I have never been one to follow the rules. What is important is how YOU want to portray the composition of the photograph.

Composition tools/rules/guides (see the next post for more details) can really enhance the final photo, enjoy the learning curve on the way! What you will find however, is that as you progress and learn, you will try new things, see things differently and start to mould your very own techniques, composition and style of photography.

This is the point where you kind of "accelerate" your passion as you become hungry for new ideas and techniques. I suggest that you read a lot (use birthdays and Christmas as an excuse to build your library of decent photographic reference books..hehe); I remember reading every bit of information that I could get my hands on and I still do now!

When you look at a subject or go out to spend the day photographing, try and stick to a theme otherwise you will be constantly flitting from one subject to another and coming up with not very much. If you say to yourself "Right, shoreline shots day today!" and concentrate on the composition of the land, shoreline and water in everyday scenes, you will find that you concentrate a lot more on the task in hand!

When you do have a theme, think about how you want to portray it. Think of different angles of view, maybe from a cliff-top, standing on the beach or even standing in the water, do you want to shoot straight out from the shore, or 'along' the shoreline. Think in maybe an abstract composition way.

One of the main "rules" of composition is the rule of thirds.

The basics of this rule suggest that you compose your subject so that approximately 1/3rd is covered by your subject and the other 2/3rd's is background. Or to put it another way, ensure that your main point of interest is at one of the intersections of the lines.

See this thread, in our Land/Sea scapes member photo section for more information and an example of the Rule of Thirds. Also read the next post.

Composition - Backgrounds

Don't just look at your subject, look behind and around them to make sure nothing is distracting or allowing the eye to wander. Smaller items like rubbish or cranes can be removed with the help of Photoshop, but getting it right first time saves work later on.

Take your time if you can, and change your position to suit the composition and lighting.

For now I say just practice, practice and practice and read a bit too. At the end of the day, the only way to find your own style is to get out there and shoot away. Look at the photos presented by Ausphotography members in the genre's that you are interested in. Don't just look at them and go, Gee that's so good, I could not do that. Analyse the photo, where is the main subject placed in the frame, what is in focus, what is blurry? Does that power-pole looks silly sticking out of the top of the lady's head. Ask yourself, If you took the photo, what would you do differently. Take the power-pole example, you could take a step to the left and get the same photo, but the power-pole is now out of the frame. Easy!

If you like a members photo, and are unsure how to achieve a similar result. Post a reply to their thread, tell them you like it and why, and ask how they achieved the result. Most members are happy to assist and give you some tips.

Previous: New To Photography:Follow your subject Composing a Picture Next: New To Photography:Rules of Composition

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