Photo Article 139 Better Photo Tips for Photo Composition

Photo Article 139
Better Photo Tips –
For Photo Composition

By: Tedric Garrison

For most of us it seems fairly common sense that you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, yet many beginning photographers attempt to do just that. If you have a tall, vertical subject like a person or a tree your camera needs to be held in a vertical position. Why? Because if you do not fill the frame of your camera, you are wasting visual space. Have you ever seen a finished painting where 2/3rd’s of the canvas has no paint on it at all? Very doubtful, because to the painter ever square inch of his canvas, is part of his creation. Therefore the first photo tip is the format (vertical or horizontal) must match the subject.

This basic concept covers several elements of design. To have balance in your image the subject must match the format. To make sure the subject is the main focus of your viewer, you must be aware of the background so it does not distract. Of course, the easiest way to eliminate visual distractions is to move in closer.

Getting back to the painting analogy, most painters are very aware of the point of focus in their finished product. Likewise; as an up and coming photographer your next photo tip to remember is to always be aware of the viewer’s point of focus. Just for clarification, I am not talking about depth of field. When I use the phrase “point of focus” I am referring to what the viewer sees within your image. You might think that is obvious, they are looking at my subject. That is only true, if you shot your subject correctly.

For example, let’s say you take a picture of a girl at the beach. Regardless of what format you choose if the horizontal line of the water crashing on the sand is dramatically off it will distract your viewer. If in the background there is a little boy playing with a big round ball, this will also pull your attention away from the main subject. If the subject is fairly light skinned and you have her lying on a bright red towel, that color will also visually distract.

To this end, learning the rule of thirds will greatly enhance the odds that your viewer is looking specifically where you want them to look. If you divide any image into thirds, (both vertically and horizontally) the points where those thirds meet are the natural focus points of most viewers. Therefore if you design the image so that your subject falls on one or more of those natural focus points, you will have a great advantage over those who shoot everything dead center. The third photo tip is this; place your subject where it is visually the most pleasing.

Most painters when they have finished their great work of art will frame it. Why is that? A frame helps draw your attention into the image and says, “Hey look at me, I’m important!” While you can do this in the same way that most painters do, when it comes to photography the word “framing” tends to take on a different meaning.

In most cases, framing consist of something in the foreground (usually slightly out of focus) that helps set off something in the background. One of the reasons this is such a powerful tool, is that this is exactly how the human eye sees things. Think about it: A flower at the edge of a canyon, you can either focus on the flower or the canyon, but not both. Your camera, can make both in focus at the same time (depth of field), but that’s not really how you saw it. Another great photo tip is to make the viewer feel what you felt. This can often be done by framing and the creative use of a narrow depth of field.

To summarize:

A) The format (vertical or horizontal) must match the subject.
  (Don’t waist space, plan every inch of your canvas.)

B) Always be aware of the viewer’s point of focus.
  (Don’t let lines, shapes, or colors become distractions.)

C) Place your subject where it is visually the most pleasing.
  (Use lines and the Rule of Thirds to your advantage.)

D) Make the viewer feel what you felt.
  (Use framing and Depth of Field to your advantage.)

If you were already an artist, composition might come naturally. But for those new to photography, this is the starting point not the final destination. Each of these tips helps you to remember several other issues involved in making a great photo. It helps if you think of yourself as an artist and each image as a work of art. Study the elements of design. Be aware what lines, shapes, colors, texture, and balance can do for your image. Take pride in every shot you take, and above all . . . have fun!

Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective on the Elements of Design and how those elements relate to all aspects of photography. His photo eBook “Your Creative Edge”  proves that creativity CAN be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world, at:

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