Working with composition

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By Matt Glastonbury, accomplished Mobile Photographer, providing great tutorials and App reviews. Matt is an independent blogger who acts as a Contributing Editor to Ink361. (Add Matt on Google Plus)

Composition is really important when it comes to making your photo balance, flow, and look just-right. A lot of the composition concepts are based on the brain’s natural subconscious attraction to shapes, weight of objects, tension, energy, eye-travel-direction, interest, and alignment. So, let’s briefly look at a few.

Visualising in shapes: When capturing a scene, try to imagine it broken into different solid shapes. I find this helpful in simplifying a scene, which enables me to balance the objects more easily.

Tip: Heavy shapes and colours always look more balanced near the bottom. If they can’t be at the bottom, then try to put the heavy shapes only in the top third of the scene.
Heavy generally = dark colours, big shapes. You can adjust this by moving around and changing the angle of the lens.

Angles: When it comes to shooting a scene where the horizon plays a strong part, it’s always important to straighten it in a photo editing app. That’s the way the brain sees and remembers the horizon. This is also the case with group photos, but not necessarily with shots of individuals. When you are capturing people, animals, or any scene, with little emphasis on the horizon-line, a 10 degree slant can also be really appealing.

The Rule of Thirds: This rule/guideline, is all about aligning your scene’s shapes onto four places within your photo.
The guideline suggests that your scene can be split into three equally-spaced rows and columns, and that dominant shapes should be placed along these lines. This technique is said to create more tension, energy, and interest, in the composition than if you simply placed all your subjects in the middle of the shot.

Tip: You’ll find excellent screen-overlays for some compositions when using KitCam or ProCamera, that can help a lot with lining up your shapes and composition.

Dominant Lines: Look for big lines running through your scene. While moving the camera you can align them with different parts of you screen to see how it affects the composition. Also try lining up big, dominant, lines, and shapes, with the corners of your photo.

Symmetry: This is generally a much easier and safer method of composing your scene layout, but, when done well, it can have a very dramatic impact on the composition of the image. Symmetry is all about making things balance evenly/symmetrically on either sides of your image and usually involves a strong centre point focus.

Tip: try getting down low between strong lines when shooting symmetrically, this really emphasises the shapes and depth in your photo.

Cropping: When you photograph people, or any subject, it’s always important to remember to focus on what they are doing, or the emotion, or their action, rather than placing them in the middle of the photo. Often we find ourselves placing subjects in dead-centre with the face in the middle, which cuts off the lower half of your subject and leaves a lot of space above. Try to crop in closer either with the camera, or later in post-processing, where you can reduce the space above and follow the Rule of Thirds. This is a common problem because we try to focus the lens on the middle of a subject, but forget to lock that focus, and then move the lens for the best composition. To learn about locking the focus and moving the lens, see MOBILE PHOTOGRAPHY – EXPOSURE AND FOCUS

Tip: When photographing people or animals, try to place more space in-front of the direction they are facing, this gives a sense of depth and space, and shows a little of what they are looking towards in the scene. That technique can really help the viewer to imagine being in the scene.

Background: Try to control the shapes and colours in the background by moving around. Try getting down low and shooting up, or down, or move left and right, and watch for interesting shapes, reflections, and colourful areas that can help compliment your subject rather than detract from it.

Tip: When capturing a whole person, try not to cut off the feet and legs while focusing on the face.. remember to frame them with space just below their feet, and the top of their head, and don’t be afraid to crop-in really tight later. (toes to hair) Cropping-in tight helps to emphasise the subject more, and focus less on the background. Also, don’t forget to allow more space in-front of the direction they are facing.

Concluding… Try taking each of your scenes with different compositions, try the different thirds top and bottom, left and right, and later, see what works best for you. Sometimes these guides just don’t feel right. But, I recommend trying them anyway, and taking lots of different shots, then deciding what photo worked best.



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