Have you ever taken a photograph that just didn’t turn out the way you envisioned it? Maybe the subject looked off-center or the image appeared cluttered and chaotic. As photographers, we often focus on the technical aspects of our craft, such as lighting and exposure. However, one crucial element that is often overlooked is composition. Composition refers to the arrangement of elements within a photograph and plays a vital role in capturing the viewer’s attention and creating a visually appealing image. In this blog, we will explore the most important composition rule that people often forget about, and provide you with a solution to elevate your photography skills to the next level.
The Most Important Composition Rule (People Often Forget About)
In a sea of trillions of images, what is the one thing above all else that separates good images from bad ones? And I’m talking about objectively good images here – images that if you were to show to say a hundred different people, over 50 of them would say the photo was objectively good. What is the thing that people refer to as good in the image and how do they determine it, whether it’s consciously or, as is the case most of the time, subconsciously? That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this video, which is the next installment of My Beginner’s Guide Series, the series where I teach creative skills for the new content creator.
In the last few videos, we’ve been talking about basic skills and basic gear choices, but now we’re going to be diving into more of the art and the vision side of things. The choices that we make in our images and videos that make the difference, regardless of what gear we end up using. But if you want to skip all of this and want to learn all there is to know about the creative skill of Photography, then check out my 30-day photography Fundamentals course, which I will leave a link to in the description box below, of course.
The Importance of the Subject
What do you think is the most important thing about composition? The most important thing to include, the most important rule, the most important element that every good composition needs to have? In my opinion, the most important thing in a composition is the thing that you’re wrapping the entire composition around – the subject.
Your image is only as strong as the subject itself. The subject is the proverbial ceiling, the limiting factor, the thing that determines how strong or how weak the image can be. What you shoot is arguably more important than how you shoot it, although both are most certainly important. And if you’ve watched my visual pattern series here on YouTube, you’ll know that how you shoot things is super, super important, but it’s always going to be limited by what you shoot. The “what” is the subject, the “how” are the methods and the techniques you use to accentuate the subject and the tools that you use to craft your message and push it forward. Great photographers and videographers understand this.
The goal of all compositions, whether done via photo or video, is to have a composition that is easy for the viewer to orient themselves in and understand the context of, and is therefore easy for the viewer to then understand. But how do you find good subjects? Well, it takes practice and work to refine what is interesting to you, no surprise there.
Maybe it might be bold colors or strong textures or silhouettes or old people or cute dogs. Whatever you’re interested in taking an image of over a long enough time horizon, and I’m talking about years here, find what speaks to you and what subjects you find yourself drawn to, and then deliberately practice shooting them and making them stand out with compositional techniques. And eventually, you’ll find the combination that works best for you.
This is why I absolutely adore minimal or simple images. Strong, simple subjects are my favorite types of photos because I find they’re the most effective way to illustrate what I’m trying to do. That’s why you’ll never see me taking photos of super busy images of anything, really, unless I feel like they add to the composition. Because the more elements you have diluting your composition, the harder it could potentially be for the viewer to understand what’s going on and know what’s important in your composition and why.
I shoot many different categories of photography, but above all else, I always keep my subjects simple and strong. But of course, a concept this abstract requires examples, so let’s dig into some.
This is an image of a woman running across a crosswalk. The use of visual patterns such as framing, centering, shadowing, and timing creates a powerful composition. But what’s more important about this image is the fact that I chose the timing to shoot it and deliberately isolated one single person within the composition. Simplifying the composition in this way allows the viewer to concentrate on just that one thing and makes it easier to understand.
This image shows the same crosswalk moments before, with many people in the frame. The presence of multiple elements makes it harder for the viewer to understand what’s going on and know what’s important in the composition.
This epic image of my friend standing on a cliff in the Dolomites demonstrates the importance of subject and composition. Different compositions were tried, but the one with a strong subject and a well-executed composition stands out.
A street shot in Tokyo, where I waited and tested different compositions to capture interesting moments. By framing people within the pillars, I created a simple composition that is easy to understand.
These examples highlight the power of the subject in a composition and how it can elevate or detract from the overall image. So, when creating your compositions, always keep in mind the importance of the subject and how it can make or break your image.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the most important composition rule that people often forget about?
The most important composition rule that people often forget about is the Rule of Thirds. This rule suggests that an image should be divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. The main elements of the image should be positioned along these lines or at their intersections, which is called the “power points”. This creates a more balanced and visually appealing composition.
2. How does the Rule of Thirds enhance the composition of an image?
The Rule of Thirds enhances the composition of an image by providing a guideline to place the main subject or points of interest off-center, rather than placing them in the center of the frame. Placing elements along the gridlines or at the power points creates a sense of balance, dynamism, and visual interest.
3. Can the Rule of Thirds be applied to any type of composition?
Yes, the Rule of Thirds can be applied to various types of compositions, including photography, painting, graphic design, and even web design. It is a versatile rule that helps to create well-balanced and visually pleasing compositions in any visual medium.
4. Are there any exceptions to the Rule of Thirds?
While the Rule of Thirds is a widely accepted guideline, artistic rules can always be broken depending on the desired effect or intention. In some cases, centering the subject or using other composition techniques may be more appropriate. However, understanding and applying the Rule of Thirds is still a valuable foundation for creating impactful compositions.
5. How can I incorporate the Rule of Thirds in my own compositions?
To incorporate the Rule of Thirds in your own compositions, you can either imagine the gridlines and power points while framing your shot or use the grid overlay feature available in most cameras or image editing software. Pay attention to the placement of your subject and key elements along the gridlines or at the power points for a more visually appealing composition.
I hope you find useful my article The Most Important Composition Rule (People Often Forget About), I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.
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