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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Tanase

Looking for Photo Compositions

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

What we decide to include in a photo and how we decide to include it shapes the perception of our memory's narrative.

It also offers our audience a chance to discover the emotions and beliefs that trigger our interest and imagination, and drive our choice(s) in visual composition.

I always visit the place this photo was taken together with my daughter. As she sees the horses her face lights with wonder and joy.

Why have I decided to choose this composition? Probably the connection I created to this place influenced me to emulate, what I imagine to be, my daughter's perception of the scene. The canopy of the trees and even number of the subjects build a sense of shelter and familiarity, the low angle and diagonal lines add a sense of energy and strength, the color white represents purity, faith and hope, and its abundance balances the warm colors of the horses.

I found the choice of composition can feel at times daunting, even more so in instances we have little to no time available to find a connection with the elements of the scene.

Experience and instinct will be a best balanced approach, so for those of us who are taking first steps in photography, learning and understanding well tested compositional rules could help gain confidence in tackling creative choices.


Compositional Rules

There is a lot of information available online regarding these compositional rules, so the information I intend to share is minimal and related to common scenarios I tend to make use of these rules in (to note there are many more compositional rules besides the ones mentioned here) :

  • Focal Points

At the beginning of my passion for photography, I often found myself mesmerized by the beauty of a landscape, and tried to capture as much of it as the camera would allow me to. Coming home, reviewing the photos on a computer, I was sad to find out the landscapes I photographed had nowhere near as much interest as I remembered them to have. I later found out this was due to the inclusion of way too many subjects in the image, subjects that were competing for attention rather than complementing each other or offering meaningful additional content to the story of the scene.

So I started to simplify and be selective of my choice of subjects. And I learnt to balance focal points.

Most of the times I tend to use the focal points to establish a sense of scale or depth to the image.

In this photo I have used the church as a focal point to offer a sense of scale to this vast landscape.

It helps me provide a sense of depth to the scene, as it makes us interpret the relative distance between us and it.

It also allows me to anchor a possible story topic in its environment, as if I were to use this photo as part of a collection of photos highlighting on the church, our audience would relate easier to it given the context has already been presented: beautiful warm autumn day, a light breeze and no rain clouds in sight.

  • The Rule of Thirds

Most of all I found using this grid to level the composition to either the horizon line or any other dominant line of the subject(s) (lines in the geometry of a house for example).

In this photo I have used the bottom horizontal line of the Rule of Thirds grid to align the composition with the camera.

Interesting note:

The rule of thirds was first written down by John Thomas Smith in 1797 in his book, Remarks on Rural Scenery. - source: Wikipedia

I also found myself using the grid in positioning the subject(s) of the photo relative one third in the frame when there is a lot of negative space surrounding them.

This bird, even though small, manages to capture focus due to its relative position to the meeting point of two grid lines.