Snappy Tips for Better Photos - part 5 - Composition / by Neil Alexander

For this fifth and final post (for the time being in my Snappy Tips series), I'm going to focus on composition and some simple do's and dont's. Learn the rules and then learn why and how to break them.

rule of thirds grid
  1. Rule of Thirds Imagine splitting your frame into 3 equal horizontal strips, and then 3 equal vertical stripes. This will give you the basic layout for the  "rule of thirds" which basically states that in order to make your frame more appealing to the eye, you should place the focal point, or primary element of your photograph on any of the 4 inner connecting joins.

Salford Quays at sunset

  1. For one reason or another (too complicated to go into here), this generally makes your image more aesthetically pleasing. However, this is not always true but you need to learn why it works, and when to break the rule. For the image below of the bridge in Salford Quays at sunset, I have purposefully placed the bridge in the lower third of the frame which also gives me more room to show the magical colours in the sky.

  2. Balance- this is simply the arrangement of shapes, colours, or areas of light and dark that complement one another and make sure that the photograph does not have an uneven feel to it. For this image below of "Dawn in the Peak District", I have used the rising sun in the top left to balance the munching sheep in the bottom right. Without the sun in the frame, the image appears lopsided, and bottom heavy.

    [caption id="attachment_759" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="Dawn in the Peak District"]

  3. Simplicity- Make sure that your frame is free from clutter, and always make sure to check the edges for intruding elements. If you could lose that telephone pole by taking two steps forward, then do it. Telephone poles, random tree branches, power lines are all examples of elements that if included in an image, often provide distraction inevitably detracting from the final quality of the image. These are also all things that can often easily be removed by moving your feet a few paces forwards or backwards. In this image of Sarah below I have gone in close to remove some distracting grafitti on the wall just to the camera left. This image also incorporates elements of point 4 below using the lines of the brickwork to lead the viewer's eye up to the subject.

Sarah

  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

wpid758-Best-of-2009-Lge-1-590x401.jpg
  1. Simplicity- Make sure that your frame is free from clutter, and always make sure to check the edges for intruding elements. If you could lose that telephone pole by taking two steps forward, then do it. Telephone poles, random tree branches, power lines are all examples of elements that if included in an image, often provide distraction inevitably detracting from the final quality of the image. These are also all things that can often easily be removed by moving your feet a few paces forwards or backwards. In this image of Sarah below I have gone in close to remove some distracting grafitti on the wall just to the camera left. This image also incorporates elements of point 4 below using the lines of the brickwork to lead the viewer's eye up to the subject.

Sarah-41-590x404.jpg
  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.
View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)
  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

Windsor Castle by Neil Alexander (Click to view larger)Here I have used the path of the staircase bottom left to lead the viewer's eye into the frame