Composition

Rule of Thirds
Rule of Odds
Leaving Space
Perspective
Clean background
Framing
Leading Lines
Simplicity
Blur
Spatial distribution of edges
Hue count

 

Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds is likely the first composition rule you will hear photographers talk about.

This rule gets you to consider moving away from images where the subject of your image is in the centre of the picture.

The rule of thirds divides your shot up by placing two horizontal and two vertical lines across your image.

The idea is that an image is more pleasing to the eye if it is off centre.
When taking an image try to visualize the grid as you take your image and place the subjects and horizons on one of those lines, or at one of the points where the line intersects.

 

Rule of Odds

Sometimes it’s better to be odd.

This rule says that an odd e.g. 1, 3, 5, 7,… number of objects in a photo is more pleasing to the eye than an even number e,g, 2,4.6.8…..
So why is this?
Think of a couple of birds sitting on a fence. When you look at them your eye is naturally drawn to the space between them.

When a third bird joins them your eye is now drawn to the middle bird.

Leaving Space

Rule of thirds is quite handy for this rule as well

This rule is two parts really.
The first part is that it’s OK and desirable to have space in your photo. This keeps a focus on your subject and ensures the viewer’s eye is drawn there.
The second part of this rule is that the space should fit in with the subject you have photographed.
If looking in a particular direction there should be space in the direction thety are looking.

If an object is moving then there should be space to move into.

The rule of thirds can help you apply this rule by placing the person or object on a third and having the other third the empty space.

Perspective

What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that men set foot on the moon but that they set eye on the earth.

Norman Cousins.

The most common perspective of any scene or object is that which we all see from our own viewpoint.

Generally this is from standing, walking of sitting with our own two eyes.
Moving left or right, higher or lower changes the view of any scene or object.
A different perspective can make the ordinary more interesting.
Viewing something from a child’s perspective can make it seem larger or taller, viewing from a height can make it seem smaller.

Going in close can reveal details that might not ordinarily be seen.

 

Clean background

Clarity is the counterbalance of profound thoughts.
Luc de Clapiers.

The enthusiasm to capture the image of a scene or object can at times let us forget to check the background for things that will make our finished image unattractive.
It is much easier to go and move that piece of rubbish in real life and put it in the bin, than it is to have to remove it later using software.
Equally a busy background may distract from the object or scene you are photographing.
Changing your perspective may give you a cleaner background as may using a wider aperture in order to blur the background.

Framing

A journalist is supposed to present an unbiased portrait of an event, a view devoid of intimate emotions. This is impossible, of course. The framing of an image, by its very composition, represents a choice. The photographer chooses what to show and what to exclude.
Alexandra Kerry.

The most obvious type of framing is to replicate a physical frame around a scene through the use of perspective.
This might be the use of a doorway to frame a person, or a scene outside, the use of a row of trees or a pair of bushes.

Framing is designed to draw the eye to the object or scene you want viewed.
The use of light or shadow, the use of architectural features, the use of openings or holes – there are lots of opportunities to frame an object or a scene.
As referenced in the quote above what you leave out of your final image can also be useful. Someone teetering on the edge of a high rise building isn’t quite as dramatic if you can see the safety harness attached .

 

Leading Lines

People take the longest possible paths, digress to numerous dead ends, and make all kinds of mistakes. Then historians come along and write summaries of this messy, nonlinear process and make it appear like a simple, straight line.
Dean Kamen.

The challenge in good composition is to get the viewer to focus on what you want them to in an image.
Some of the simplest and obvious leading lines are roads and paths. They take the viewer through the image to the point you want them to focus on.
Leading lines also gives your image depth and stops it looking flat.
When looking at the image that you wish to take look around and see what lines there are in the scene.
Are there roads, fences, rows of trees, cliffs, a river, lampposts, …..?
Think about how you might use these to strengthen your image. Try and ensure that your object or final scene is at the point where the lines converge.

 

Simplicity

Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.
Jonathan Ive.

The beauty of simplicity in images is that it’s immediately obvious what the subject of the photo is.
There’s no clutter to distract and there’s space to enjoy the object of the photo.
Having an empty or neutral background or using blur to hide the background through a narrow depth of field can both be used to achieve simplicity.

 

Blur

My poor vision gives me a soft-focus morning. For the first half hour, I kind of wander through my house, and everything is a blur. I put my contacts in when I’m ready to deal with the world.
Carrie Ann Inaba.

The thing about blur is that there is good blur and not so good blur.
Blur in photography should be a conscious, deliberate choice.
If your entire photo is blurry, without anything in focus then it’s not likely to be a good image.
Having your object in sharp focus but your background blurry is much more likely to produce a good image.
Overall professional photographers have much more blur overall in their images than amateurs, but significantly less blur in the sharpest part of the image.
It’s a deliberate choice to draw attention to the object of the image.

 

Spatial distribution of edges

In many a piece of music, it’s the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape. And I know I, as a writer, will often try to include a lot of empty space on the page so that the reader can complete my thoughts and sentences and so that her imagination has room to breathe.
Pico Iyer.

 

The meeting of science and art. Not the first meeting nor the last but an interesting meeting.

In order to try and determine algorithms to identify good photos via computer research was done to identify amateur versus professional photography.
One of the identifying characteristics was that professional photographers had less edges near the outside of an image.

When you think about the use of the rule of thirds, making photos simple, using blur to focus on the object, using space to indicate direction this becomes self-evident.

Less is indeed more.

 

Hue count

A colour is a physical object as soon as we consider its dependence, for instance, upon its luminous source, upon other colours, upon temperatures, upon spaces, and so forth.
Ernst Mach.

The next identifier between professional and amateur images was that while professional images appeared to be more vibrant, in fact they had less hues of colour than amateur images.
This again ties into more simple images, less clutter and more blur etc.
Consider when taking your image what colours you want in your image and whether they complement each other.
A colour wheel can be useful in avoiding colours that clash.

Complementary colours are those that are on opposite sides of a colour wheel.

Analogous colours are any three colours that are beside each other on the wheel.
Either produces pleasing results.

wheel