Besides sophisticated devices and advanced shooting techniques, a good photo cannot exist without good composition. Why? Because composition is laying a base for everything else. So, what is composition? In layman terms, it is how you place the objects in your photo. Strictly speaking, there is no rules for composition. This is because different people may have different views on what looks good and what does not. In this post, I will list down some of the commonly accepted composition practices that are very useful for beginners.
Depth of the Field
First of all, depth of the field is the range of distance that appears sharp/clear. This range may vary with camera, lens and aperture (the other two exposure parameters: ISO, shutter). Normally this is used when you have a very focused subject to shoot. With a proper depth of the field, the background is blurred and thus the subject being focused will be sharpened and prominent in the picture.
Looking around at the architectures of the city, interior design of your house or jewellery designs, the arts of symmetry goes without saying. This technique, to some extent, largely depends on if the subject/view to be shot is symmetrical or not. For example, if the boats on the left of jetty in the photo on the left are gone, the photo won’t be symmetrical any more and thus, the photo might look very imbalance.
This technique requires a smart eye that can always discover lines that are not so easily seen.
Leading lines exist naturally. It can be like the railway on the right. It can also be a river, a light or handrail. The point is you need to take the photo from an angle where the line goes from.
Golden Ratio/Rule of Thirds
The golden ratio is 1:1.618 while rule of third is 1:3. Most of time, the rule of third is easier to apply for people without sophisticated mathematical mind. LOL. The reason why ratio is called golden ratio is because no matter what, as long as it is constructed in this ratio, it will look appealing to the eyes. Take the simpler rule of thirds for example, we divide the photo into 9 blocks with exactly same size and shape (this is easily done as nowadays camera and cell phone all have this built-in capability). And then put the subject being shot onto any corner of the centred block (this is the point where it just takes up 1/3 of the space).
Similar to rule of symmetric, this technique also largely depends on if the subject/view to be shot has any pattern at all. Again, you need to have a pair of eyes that can find out “beauty” that others cannot. The photo on the right is the ceiling of a Buddhism tower in China.
As the name suggests, this is to use the natural structure of the objects to frame a photo. For example, the gate in the photo on the left just perfectly frames the castles into the view, which makes the entire photo artistic and special.
Among all techniques I introduced, I believe this is the most difficult one to apply. It requires much creativity. Instead of taking photo from a perspective that everyone can think of, you should always try to see a new view from a different angle. The famous photographer Murad Osmann has made his fame by taking the “follow me” series photos. The right one is an example similar to his idea.
Horizontal or vertical lines just exist naturally in your photos. The thing to note here is that in any way it has to be straight and strictly horizontal or vertical. Any tilt of line will make the photo imbalance.
A contrast can be made by brightness, size, distance, height or colour. Similar to depth of the field, it is used to make the focused subject more prominent in the picture.
Simplicity is a philosophy. Just like we live in this world, we should not be so greedy to expect everything. A good photo is not the one includes everything. Simplicity achieves its finest effects by leaving blank properly, as a simple scene actually creates a feeling of mystery, imagination and thinking.
In some sense, the rules listed above may seem simple. But when you start applying them into practice, you may realize that everything may not be as easy as it looks. In reality, many things will deters you from following the rules. For example, when you are visiting a crowded tourism spot where people move back by back, how can you make sure your simplicity rule can be applied? Thus, flexibility and creativity are even more important than simply following the rules.
Lastly, have patience and keep practicing. Practice Makes Perfect!