How we see...
Visual Perception has been studied for years and in the 1930‘s and 1940‘s Gestalt Psychologists raised questions about vision and perception that are still being studied today. According to the Gestalt Laws of Organization there are several main factors that determine how we group items based on our visual perception of them. These laws of organization have played a significant role in studies of how we see things, and how our eye moves through an image.
When we first look at an image we notice certain things before others, and our eye follows a predictable path through the image. This path is influenced by compositional elements, and the better our understanding of these elements the better our ability to influence how people view our images.
This type of study is way beyond the scope of this tutorial, however it is important to know that it exists.Techniques for good composition 1. Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds draws two horizontal and two vertical lines equally spaced through an image. This creates three vertical and three horizontal stripes in our frame. Placing items in our image along these lines helps to create a pleasing composition.
The lines also create 4 points of intersection where the lines cross. It has been discovered that these intersection points correspond to areas that our eyes tend to move to first. By placing our subject or an object of interest on one of these intersection points we can create a better looking image and know that the viewers eye will be drawn to that point.
2. Golden Ratio
|Rule of Thirds|
Golden Ratio is a rule based on the ration phi which is 1.618:1 The golden ratio was first studied by ancient greek mathematicians and has been since been studied by mathematical minds of every era. It has been used to define proportions and composition in art and architecture throughout the ages. The fibonacci sequence is a numerical view of phi. It is a sequence starting with zero and one and each remaining number is the sum of the previous two. Phi can be used to describe triangular/diagonal lines as well, and the Golden Spiral is a graph of shrinking proportion based on phi. In composition these can be used to define the different areas of an image as well as to place diagonal lines and curving lines in an image. In the image below the squares become smaller in the ration of 1.618/1 and the spiral they create is a golden spiral.
|Golden Spiral Lines|3. Rule of Odds
|Golden Sector lines are similar to thirds lines but are a little bit closer together.|
The rule of odds simply put states that an odd number of items is more pleasing to the eye than an even number of items. It is better to have 3 items in a photo than 2 or 4.4. Depth of Field
Depth of Field is the amount of a photo that is in focus. Normally most of us try to keep as much in focus as possible, and it’s usually advisable to have the subject of our image in focus. However out of focus elements can help to draw our attention to the in focus subject of our image. If the out of focus (OOF) elements are a certain shape or color they can help to improve the composition of our image as well.
|The out of focus foreground and background create separation with the subject and draw us to it|
Diagonal lines though an image create triangles, and triangles and diagonals help to suggest movement and create a dynamic and exciting photo. There are several different ways to position triangles in an image, and using the thirds lines or golden ratio to describe triangles works well.
|Triangle Lines|6. Direction/Space
Direction and Space in an image help to dictate how easy it is to look at. If the subject of our image is traveling from left to right then it should normally be on the left side of the image, moving into the space on the right. And vice versa. An object or a subject that is moving off of the page creates an uneasy feeling as we don’t know where it is going.
|Curtis Keene rides into the frame on a triangle line|Principles and Elements 1.Proportion - The proportions of an images composition
|Kym Grosser, darkside out of the photo... |
If the subject of our image is disproportionately small or large it draws a lot more attention to itself. Our angle of view and our choice of lenses can change the proportion of items in our image drastically, so we need to be aware of the proportions of objects in our image and how they look.2. Balance - An image should be balanced, it shouldn’t feel heavier on one side or the top.
Images should have some sort of sense of balance to them. If our subject is on one side of the image there should be something to balance it on the other. And keeping in mind the rule of odds if we have an object on one side of the image it probably will look better with two objects on the other side.3. Harmony - There should be some sort of harmony between the various elements.
All of the elements in our image are interacting in one way or another, they share the same space and moment in time and we’ve chosen to include them. A strong image should have most of the elements in harmony with each other.4. Orientation - Horizontal or Vertical, Up of Down?
The way that we orientate our image is important. Some images need to be vertical and some need to be horizontal as dictated by their use, but some scenes also lend themselves better to one orientation or the other depending on their lines and elements. If in doubt try both and see which looks better. 5. Path - The path that your eye takes when looking at an image.
When we look at an image our eye travels through the image in a certain way. It takes a while to recognize this and every image is different, however most peoples eyes follow a similar path in the same image. Knowing what influences how our eyes travel and being able to predict how they will travel in an image allows us to create stronger images.6. Negative Space - The space between the other elements in our image.
Negative space is the space that is not part of the subject or other recognizable elements in an image, the best example is just white space or blue sky. Negative space can have shape and lines that influence our image just as much as the subject does, so we should be aware of it when we’re shooting.7. Geometric Organization - Is there a certain geometry to the elements or shapes or their arrangement in the image?
Triangles are the strongest geometric shape in imagery, and they create diagonal lines between three objects. Whether we use them in our negative space or our composition of other elements triangles help to create strong images. Other shapes can occur in images as well, it’s good to be able to recognize them.8. Repetition - Repeating lines and shapes can add to composition.
Repeated objects whether they’re lines or other objects can create patterns and add to the feel of our image. Repeated objects can form a line as well and lead the viewer into an image.
9. Light and Shadow - Light and shadow are compositional elements and all of the principles apply to them.
|In this image the line of posts on the left side draw the viewer to the right and into the image. The depth of field also draws us in and our eye initially wants to come to rest at the junction of the posts and the ledge.|
Light and shadow create lines and shapes and negative space and all of the other principles apply to the shapes that they create. 10. Perspective - Both the perspective of the viewer and the arrangement of perspective lines in our image.
As a viewer we have a perspective, whether it’s looking up or down at something. The perspective we choose for our image influences how it looks and how people react to it. Perspective also creates converging or diverging lines depending on our choice of lens and our orientation to our subject. Perspective Control or PC lenses (also commonly know as tilt-shift lenses) can change how lines in our image converge or diverge, and also control out depth of field.11. Symmetry and Convergence - Symmetry can create balance and converging perspective lines or shapes.
Symmetrical photos can be very appealing even though they tend to break other rules of composition. When we have an image with a subject in the center that is balanced by symmetrical objects or lines on either side we are drawn into the middle. Such images often have an odd number of elements and quite often make use of converging lines.
That's really all I have to say about the basics of composition, and even this is probably treading on some more advanced stuff. If you think about the points above when you're taking photos your photos should end up looking better.