Photographic rules can help you improve the quality of your composition. Better composition means better photos. This is a discussion on some of those often used rules in photography. More than rules these can be considered as guidelines. You are free to break them whenever you can but nevertheless they are extremely handy to know.
1. The Rule of thirds
The easiest way to understand this often used rule of composition in photography is to divide a frame into nine equal rectangles. What you get is a 3 x 3 box that is criss-crossed with two sets of parallel lines. You will notice that the lines intersect each other at four points. Call these the sweet spots of the image. Believe it or not anything placed round these points would draw the attention of the user more easily.
2. Leading lines
If you are reading a book on composition, Leading Lines will invariably follow the Rule of Thirds. Leading Lines serve the purpose of drawing a viewer into an image and on to the focal point. Let’s take a classic example. A picket fence by the sea, seemingly leading towards a light tower. The picket fence is your leading line leading you to the light tower, the focal point of your image.
The use of diagonal lines in your images has a multitude of impacts. For one diagonal lines especially when you use two sets of them can produce what is known as linear distortion. E.g., parallel lines which appear to be meeting at a distance. Diagonal lines also work as leading lines directing the eyes of the viewer towards something that is the point of interest in the images.
Framing denotes something that is a part of the image and used to highlight the main subject. E.g., a photographer captures the Hagia Sophia through the window of his hotel room. The window which becomes a part of the image is used to ‘frame’ the main subject, which, needless to mention is the architecture.
5. Figure to Ground
The concept of figure to ground deals with contrast between the subject and the background. You may have seen images where the subject which is wearing a brightly colored dress stands out from the rest of the image that may be dull or of subdued colors. The whole purpose of Figure to Ground is so that the subject stands out from the rest of the image. Now, the concept of figure to ground can be stretched and skewed further but to make it simpler to understand we can label anything that is of contrasting color or tone to the background as falling within the definition of Figure to Ground. A good example would be a high contrast image shot in a studio where the subject is reasonably well lit and stands out from the background which is dark or poorly lit.
6. Fill the Frame
Filling the frame is a cardinal rule of photography. Filling the frame in other words also suggest the fact that you have to move closer. You can achieve this either zooming your lens to magnify your subject, or walk up closer to the subject (zooming with your legs). When you get closer to your subject you also bring your viewer along. Getting closer means you emphasize your subject in revealing its personality and or character. Shooting a lovely bed of sunflowers from your eye-level can never really give the same effect as shooting them from a low angle. The same way when shooting food or doing macro photography you will need to have to move closer and fill the frame. The technique is equally useful when shooting headshots or portraits. In this case however a telephoto lens is a must have otherwise your risk distorting your subject’s facial features.
7. Center Dominant Eye
This discovery was an accident of science. A happy accident nevertheless. A neuroscientist doing an experiment on right brain left brain and the connections and differences between the two. While researching materials for the experiment she show how stumbled upon a startling discovery. That for more than 500 hundred years painters have been placing one of the subjects’ eyes bang smack at the center of the painting. There has not been a conclusive answer to this phenomenon but it seems somehow this has been a conscious effort by painters.
8. Patterns and Repetition
Patterns are sometimes interpreted as boring. But I can point two examples which would suggest the exact opposite of it – music and patterns in photography. Patterns such as the traffic lines on the streets, the railings of an old Spanish house, the motifs on a church or mosque or even the checkerboard tiles that adorn the floors can be interesting to capture on the sensor. Sometimes breaking a pattern can create a really interesting photo.
Perfect symmetry can be really beautiful. However, sometimes, even with the most exquisitely symmetrical faces you don’t get the best of images. So, this rule is subjective to the eyes of the beholder. Symmetry however can work with landscapes, with cityscapes, reflections and other genres of photography.
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