Tips to a Great Photo, Part 5 | Composition

April 21, 2011

We’re nearing the end of our short track to a better photo, and I really can’t complete the series without a post on composition. Composition is just a fancy term for “where you place things in your photo.”  I think that learning about composition is going to completely change the way you feel about your photos.  The first trick to an interesting photo is (usually) placing your subject or main focal point in one of four areas of the frame.

When you look through the viewfinder, imagine what you’re looking at has two vertical lines and two horizontal lines—splitting the photo into thirds each way–nine equal parts.  Some cameras even have a feature where the LCD screen can have these lines on it (check out your camera’s owner’s manual).

You want the subject or main focal point to be on or near one of the four areas of the photo in which the vertical and horizontal lines cross each other.  This idea is called the “Rule of Thirds” and is used in all types of art.  The point of having this rule in the back of your head is to discourage you from placing your subject smack-dab in the middle of the photo.  Generally it’s a good idea to have the horizon of the photo run along one of the horizontal lines, the subject run along one of the vertical lines, and the main focal points line up with one of the four paces the vertical and horizontal lines cross one another.

You can see in this photo that Hannah’s body is running along the left vertical line and her face, as the main focal point, is roughly at the intersection of two lines.

Now, like with everything else, there are exceptions to the rule.  That’s all.  I just wanted to make that clear.

So experiment with different subjects.  Take photos of them using the Rule of Thirds and then take photos with your subjects simply in the middle of the photo.  I think you’ll see that more often than not, you get a much more compelling photo using the Rule of Thirds–either strictly or loosely.

So, I’m sorry to have ruined all photos, art, movies, and TV shows for you, as you will now always notice the artist utilizing the Rule of Thirds.  But it’s worth it—your photos will look better! ;)

Next week I’ll be posting our last Tips to a Great Photo post about the important trio of ISO, aperture, and shudder speed (for those of you venturing out there with an SLR!).  Before we wrap up, though, are there any questions you have about photography?  Anything you’ve heard about but I haven’t yet discussed?  Anything you want me to mention?  Let me know and I’ll be sure to address your questions next week!


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