Good composition is a key element of good photographs, yet it’s often hard to define.
Instead of looking at composition as a set of rules to follow, I view it as a set of ingredients that can be taken out of the pantry at any point and used to make a great ‘meal’ (photograph). Alternatively, I’ve often described it as a set of tools that can be taken out of one’s compositional tool belt at any given time in the construction of a great image.
The key is to remember that in the same way as a chef rarely uses all the ingredients at their disposal in any dish – that a photographer rarely uses all of the ingredients of composition in the making of an image.
Today I’d like to look at five of the ingredients (or tools, or elements) of composition that I draw on in my photography. They’re not rules – just things that I consider when setting up a shot.
There are patterns all around us if we only learn to see them. Emphasizing and highlighting these patterns can lead to striking shots – as can high lighting when patterns are broken.
Read more on using repetition and patterns in photography.
Depending upon the scene – symmetry can be something to go for – or to avoid completely.
A symmetrical shot with strong composition and a good point of interest can lead to a striking image – but without the strong point of interest it can be a little predictable. I prefer to experiment with both in the one shoot to see which works best.
Read more on symmetry in photography.
Images are a two-dimensional thing yet with the clever use of texture they can come alive and become almost three-dimensional.
Texture particularly comes into play when light hits objects at interesting angles.
Read more on using light to create texture in your photography.
Depth of Field
The depth of field that you select when taking an image will drastically impact the composition of an image.
It can isolate a subject from its background and foreground (when using a shallow depth of field) or it can put the same subject in context by revealing it’s surrounds with a larger depth of field.
Lines can be powerful elements in an image.
They have the power to draw the eye to key focal points in a shot and to impact the ‘feel’ of an image greatly.
Composition in photography: conclusion
These are just some of the elements of composition that I consider in my photography. They reflect my own style and personality but there are plenty more.
So take your camera! Have fun! Experiment with different compositional tools!
Now over to you:
What are your favorite compositional elements? Share your thoughts (and photos!) in the comments below!