With the increased number of ‘selfies’ being taken, one wonders if photographers are missing out. I’m thinking that many people are missing out by not using the basic rules of composition and the benefits to be had. No matter what tool you use to record images, paying attention to the foundations of composition can be beneficial and can encourage you to explore new subjects; I’d advocate trying landscapes as this will help develop transferable skills to other subjects.
So what are the 8 elements that can help improve composition; “tell me” I hear you say. In no particular order:
1) Focal Length of your Lens
2) The Rule of Thirds
3) Interesting Foregrounds
4) Leading Lines
5) Using Negative Space
6) Odd Number of Elements
7) Looking for Symmetry
8) Straight Horizons
Let’s look a bit deeper at each one:
1) Focal Length of your Lens.
Traditionally, the majority of landscapes are shot using a wide-angle lens in an effort to squeeze as much of the scene into a relatively small frame. As an alternative you could use a longer focal length lens such as 80-200mm. using such a lens can have the effect of compressing the scale within a scene by bringing the background and foreground closer together and it will help you to isolate small sections of a large vista.
2) The Rule of Thirds.
Your camera may have the facility to show an overlay grid on the rear screen showing both the horizon and vertical axis divided into thirds thus giving you 9 squares. The important parts of your image should be placed on the crosses within the grid as far as possible. This well-tried grid approach has been used artists for many years as it helps to balance the important and less important elements within a scene.
3) Interesting Foregrounds.
It’s easy when faced with an impressive vista to under estimate the importance of connecting the extreme distance and the immediate foreground. By moving your vantage point to include for instance a rock at the edge of a lake or small fishing boat in a harbor, you’ll be able to include an ‘anchor’ point to help steer the viewer into your scene. Just the inclusion of small plants can help bring the scene together.
4) Leading Lines.
Leading lines can include a wide range of subjects and, if possible, they should come from either of the bottom corners and lead towards the center. Leading lines can include elements such as a path, fence, road, stream or even clouds going towards the center and all will help draw a viewers eye into your image; used wisely they can help to add depth to a scene.
5) Negative Space.
Image a single horse in a field, if you were to place it in the center of your photo it could look over powering. If on the other hand it’s placed to one side to show more of its environment, it would offer a less cluttered view and add to the feeling of isolation.
6) Odd number of Elements.
A strange phenomenon but by including an odd number of animals, people or trees for instance, it creates an improved sense of balance.
7) Looking for Symmetry.
An interesting alternative to the rule of thirds is to try and balance the layout of an image so that each side of the center line has the same image. An example could include having a rowing boat in the center of the picture with the oars reaching out at the same time while second example would be a stairway to a grand building branching off at right angles. With the ‘right’ subject, a pleasing result can be had.
8) Straight Horizons.
While it’s possible that lens distortion could send a horizon off level it’s more likely the fault of the photographer when taking the picture. Using a tripod is a sure fired method of solving the problem so is using the inbuilt level in your camera. Horizons being out of level are at their most prominence with seascapes when the water meets the sky however, any software application has the facility to correct the problem usually found under the crop tool.
So why not add landscapes and include at least some of these guidelines, I’m sure you’ll be encouraged with the results.
Thanks for reading
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
Blogs / Tips
39) 20-photography-facts-conversation-stealers (Pt 4)
38) Adding Textures
37) Using LAB for sharpening
36) Photography Forums
35) 20 Photography conversation fact (pt3)
34) Layers for beginners (6 Fill Layers)
33) Layers for beginners (5 Text Layers)
32) Layers for beginners (4 Live Layers)
31) Layers for beginners (3: Adjustments)
30) Layers for beginners (2: Pixel)
29) Layers for beginners (1: Background)
28) Shooting Infrared
27) Save our UK camera shops
26) Affinity Photo
25) 20 Photography conversation facts (pt2)
24) Firmware updates
23) Twenty Newsletters
22) Creative ideas - 30 in total
21) Aperture Priority / Shutter Priority
20) The Golden Hour?
19) 20 Photography conversation facts
17) Traveling with a camera
16) Photo Editing Workflow
15) Camera Meter Modes
14) The Histogram
13) I taught it everything
12) 25 Tips
11) The Exposure Triangle
10) Eight Elements of Composition
9) The Ghosts in my Camera Bag
8) Jpeg vs RAW?
7) Shooting Infrared
6) 30 Creative Photography Ideas
5) Street photography
in London - 10 point plan
4) My top 10 Photographers
3) Post Processing the FRPS Panel
2) FRPS here we come
1) ARPS Membership
Top of Page