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The Art of Composition

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  • The Art of Composition

    Art of Composition

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    For the technically inclined photographers, the art of composition seems to elude them. For those who are artistically inclined, it seems natural. This they said has something to do with the left and right brain.

    So what is composition? Composition is like story telling. It starts of with a good subject, adds the background, lead-in, drama and ends with a conclusion. A good story is captivating; it is filled with intrigue and drama.

    Just imagine that you have a clean piece of paper, how do you fill it up with the elements in front of you to communicate your message to the viewer?

    Composition can be defined as a means of selecting appropriate elements and arranging them within the photo space to communicate one's ideas and feelings effectively to the viewer. Composition can make or break a photo.

    When you see a great photo…it didn’t just happen. The photographer would have taken a lot of effort, careful planning and pains to communicate his message to you using his artistic tool…….the camera. It was not a result of throwing together objects or filling the background with details. A great photo does not leave the viewer confused and unsatisfied. A well composed photo will leave the viewer satisfied and wanting for more.

    Every photographer approaches any given subject differently. One may like the more romantic approach, while another may want to portray it *realistically. Another may choose to work with different *textures to create a *mood or atmosphere with *contrast for the viewer. Composition allows you to say what you want to say.

    In composing your photo, you decide what you want your main point of focus to be. No two photographers will have the same point of view even though they may be at the same scene….some will choose the point of interest larger, clearer, stronger, brighter than it actually appear in real life. In a way the point of interest reflects the cultural background and training one may have.

    These are thoughts that should go thru the photographer’s mind:-
    1. Determine the subject matter
    2. Compose (place) the subject matter in a way that is going to be most effective.
    3. Consider what kind of mood it is going to create
    4. What emotions is it going to be evoked?
    5. What other contents should be in the picture to capture the viewer
    6. Will there be anything in the picture that will distract the viewer?
    7. Is this the best composition for the subject?

    The main elements in composition are:-

    A. Cropped ratios
    Cameras come in different cropped ratios. Some of the common cropped ratios are 3:2, 4:3, 5:2, 6:4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x12, 6x17, 4x5, 8x10…etc

    The cropped ratios will determine how you would place the subject and how you would tell your story.

    B. Depth
    Depth gives an illusion of distance or 3D feel to an otherwise 2 dimensional photo. Placing objects behind or in front of the subject should do the trick.

    C. Lines
    Lines take the viewer’s eyes to the main subject and to the various interesting background of the photo. Lines can be formed by objects within the photo, both discreet and obvious. When a photo is viewed, most people will begin on the bottom left corner, and continue through the photo to the right. A good composed photo will not lead the viewer to keep going right and out of the picture. The lines should lead a viewer thru the photo in a smooth flowing motion.

    D. Value and contrast
    This is the lightness or darkness of an area, or shape within the photo. This technique is used to create the overall feel or mood of the photo.

    E. Space
    Space in a photo is the relation between the subject and the things around it. For example one would not like to place the subject at the left edge of the photo and looking at the left edge.

    You have noticed that I have left out the “rule of thirds” in this discussion. This is supposed to be the most elementary step in understanding composition.

    Here are some examples:-

    1. an analysis for the 1st photo, with the photo divided into 9 segments. See how the viewer is led to the main subject.

    2. An example of the cropped ratios and how it affects the composition

    3. Using the natural curve lines of the building, depth, space, value and contrast to compose the photo. The curve glass wall reflects the buidlings in a big city and how an individual can feel lonely inspite of a lot people surrounding him.

    4. A complicated environment, using, lines, depth, space, value and contrast to compose a story of the growing affluence of the Chinese people. Keeping dogs as pets were unheard off during the culrural revolution. Dogs were supposed to be for food. This dog has captured the attention of at least 6 people in the photo.

    Last edited by khoking; 23-12-2008, 01:45 PM.
    Maxby has a facebook too

    PhotoSafari - each experience is a different

  • #2
    Re: The Art of Composition

    ... nice ... ...


    • #3
      Re: The Art of Composition

      thanks uncle.. is help a lot...


      • #4
        Re: The Art of Composition

        thanks for the sharing.
        in the process of learn, unlearn and relearn


        • #5
          Re: The Art of Composition

          A great article with clear explanations and great tips. Excellent.


          • #6
            Re: The Art of Composition

            Very informative .. THanks for sharing ..


            • #7
              Re: The Art of Composition

              Nice write-up. Thanks
              103:2 Verily! Man is in loss.


              • #8
                Re: The Art of Composition

                Thanks for the explanation, that's really help newbie like me. Thanks for sharing your ILMU uncle Maxby....


                • #9
                  Re: The Art of Composition

                  Mr. Maxby. Thanks for this article. Got some pointers from here.


                  • #10
                    Re: The Art of Composition

                    Maxby, you might want to add the golden ratio in as info too?


                    • #11
                      Re: The Art of Composition

                      Definitely a good read, thanks for sharing maxby.


                      • #12
                        Re: The Art of Composition

                        Thanks for the invaluable tips, Max !!!!
                        [I]i shall pass this way but once ...... let me do the right things now .......


                        • #13
                          Re: The Art of Composition

                          Excellent. Very often we see people commenting on an image by saying. "I like it". A secret for learning and developing your own compositional skill is to look at pictures and try and analyze WHY you like a certain picture. Is it because of the balance of colours ? A sense of harmony. Or contrasts? Or the placement of the elements in the frame. Or the patterns . Or etc.etc. Try and think why you like a particular image. Why do you linger longer than usual on a particular picture. The answer will surely help improve your own compositional skills.
                          Last edited by digitalartist; 20-12-2008, 12:38 AM.
                          Yusuf Hashim


                          • #14
                            Re: The Art of Composition

                            will try to put it in practice.
                            BUY FILM NOT MEGAPIXEL


                            • #15
                              Re: The Art of Composition

                              kamsiah sifu maxby!!