The art of composition or putting the picture together in the viewfinder can make the difference between a good picture and a bad one! It is a visual process of organizing the elements and individual details of a scene into a balanced and pleasing arrangement. Because what one person finds pleasing, someone else will not, composition is largely a matter of personal taste.
There is no right or wrong composition in photography. A composition that conveys a photographers intended meaning is an effective one. A composition that does not or that confuses the viewer is not.
There are certain rules of composition that most photographers agree will make the best pictures. However, the word rules is used loosely here as they are intended to simply be guidelines to take great pictures.
They are based on recreating similarities in the make-up of many different images that many people have found to be esthetically-pleasing. A rule of composition or a design concept should not be taken as a hard and fast rule that must be observed.
In fact, some renowned photographs violate all the rules of composition and are still excellent pictures. This does not mean that the rules are without value. They are tremendously valuable. They are time-proven, and provide great guidelines for photographers at any level.
These rules are great guidelines to start out with. But if you feel you want to break one of these rules, by all means go right ahead. Photography is not about perfection. Its about capturing images that will be pleasing to you and those you want to share the pictures with.
Here are some of those rules:
1. Choose a primary point of interest before taking the picture. Determine which area is of the most importance to you and compose the picture around that area.
2. Be sure that only the things you want the viewer to see appear in the picture. If there are numerous objects cluttering up the background, your message will be lost. If you can not find an angle or framing to isolate your subject, consider using depth of field control on your camera, if it has one, to keep the background out of focus.
3. Give your picture contrast. A light subject will have more impact if placed against a dark background and vice versa. Contrasting colors may be used for emphasis, but can become distracting if not considered carefully.
4. Consider the balance of what you are shooting. Generally, asymmetric or informal balance is considered more pleasing in a photograph than symmetric (formal) balance. In other words, placing the main subject off-center and balancing the weight with other objects (smaller or lower impact) will be more effective than placing the subject in the center.
5. Frame your picture. A frame in a photograph is something in the foreground that leads you into the picture or gives you a sense of where the viewer is. For example, a branch and some leaves framing a shot of rolling hills and a valley, or the edge of an imposing rock face leading into a shot of a canyon. Framing can usually improve a picture. The frame does not need to be sharply focused. In fact if it is too sharply detailed, it could be a distraction.
6. Be sure the viewpoint is pleasing. You can often change a picture dramatically by moving the camera up or down or, stepping to one side. One of the best ways to come up with a prize-winning photograph is to find an unusual point of view.
7. When the subject is capable of movement, such as an animal or person, it is best to leave space in front of the subject so it appears to be moving into, rather than out of, the photograph.
8. Linear elements such as roads, waterways, and fences placed diagonally are generally perceived as more dynamic than horizontals.
9. Use the rule of thirds. This is a principle taught in graphic design and photography and is based on the theory that the eye goes naturally to a point about two-thirds up the page.
Also, by visually dividing the image into thirds (either vertically or horizontally) you achieve the informal or asymmetric balance mentioned above.
Although there are many ways a photograph can be composed effectively by basing it on the use of thirds, the most common example is the placement of the horizon line in landscape photography. If the area of interest is land or water, the horizon line will usually be two-thirds up from the bottom. On the other hand, if the sky is the area of emphasis, the horizon line may be one-third up from the bottom, leaving the sky to occupy the top two-thirds.
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