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Key Compositional Techniques for Photography

Composing an image is a significant step when taking a shot and is essential for successful photography. Poor composition results in a fantastic subject matter appearing dull or distorted. In the visual arts there are methods for laying subject matter in particular areas of the frame to make them more compelling to the viewer. Although it is beneficial to follow these rules, once they are mastered they can also be broken to give a more distinctive look and style to your own body of work.

Rule of Thirds – By using enabling a grid on your cameras display, you can then apply the rule of thirds to your image. The theory is that if you place points of interest from the subject on the lines of intersection on the grid, the picture becomes more balanced and will permit a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. The human eye naturally looks onto the lines of intersection, therefore the viewer doesn’t have to search around the image to identity the focus point of the subject.

Golden Ratio – This is a more advanced compositional ratio than the rule of thirds. Simply put, the golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. This proportion creates a sense of co-ordination and balance and can be seen in almost every artistic and natural form, it’s a mathematical equation of aesthetically pleasing composition. In photography, the guideline is a shell like shape that has sub-division of rectangles than can be split up indefinitely. Once the image falls as evenly as possible within this shape, it looks more attractive and engaging.

Key Compositional Techniques for Photography

Framing – This is the technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by obstructing other areas of the image completely or by tricking the viewer into ignoring them temporarily. Frames can be natural occurrences by using objects within a scene, or they can be artificial and added in post-production later on. Framing gives your images context and also adds a sense of image depth and texture.

When building up your portfolio or archive of images, you find yourself photographing a mixture of subject matter. Among your shots you should have some of the following compositional techniques; Simplicity, Shapes, lines, repetition and negative space among many others. Once you apply the compositional arrangements listed above to the form of your images, you will be sure to captivate your viewers and enable them to understand your body of photography.

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Shaw Academy

Updated: Jun 9, 2015

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