Composing An Image (Part 1)

“Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

This blog is the first of three posts about composition in photography. No matter our knowledge level, we can all afford to get better at taking pictures. Therefore, I just want to offer a few guidelines on ways you can compose an image to perhaps make it more interesting. In order to keep it simple I have chosen three (out of many) tips to concentrate on. I believe photography is subjective. As individuals, we can look at the same image and see different aspects of it, or interpret it in distinct ways. In that manner, we can photograph the same subject and compose it so differently that our images are nothing alike. This is why I find composition to be so important. We can learn to photograph everything (even our daily lives) from a standpoint that no one else has; making that view and subsequent photo extremely unique. And the best thing is, it doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to do. Practicing a few simple tips can make all the difference.

But first, what is composition anyway? Simply put, Merriam-Webster.com defines it as: ‘the way in which something is put together or arranged: the combination of parts or elements that make up something’. With this in mind let’s start with the first tip, Rule of Thirds.

Part 1 - Rule of Thirds

Essentially this rule breaks down an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally. So, you have a grid with four points of intersection. As you can see from the image/grid, the subject is off center. People often center the subject in a photo. Following the Rule of Thirds helps us break out of that monotony and create much more interesting images. By placing the subject at the points of intersection of the grid lines, there is more balance to the photo. With the subject not centrally located, she has been placed much more naturally to the viewer’s eye. If your camera has a grid option, make sure it’s turned on to help you. If you don’t have a grid view, eye it the best you can. You can also crop the photo in editing if needed to help align it along the grid how you want. And remember, although it says “Rule”, rules can be broken. So, once you learn how to apply it, feel free to break it when you feel the need.

Next week, we will talk about backgrounds; specifically, how to look within the frame for items that may clutter your image. Then you can change the frame to remove any unwanted items before you snap the picture. So please come back for Part 2 of this blog segment. In the meantime, I hope you can practice working with the Rule of Thirds. And feel free to share any images you get during your practice on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PittmansPhotography.