Mak­ing align­ments

Com­pos­ing im­ages so fea­tures align em­pha­sises sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween el­e­ments within the frame

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

Lin­ing things up when you frame a shot is one of the most ba­sic de­ci­sions in com­po­si­tion. In fact, it’s so ba­sic that many of us who take the trou­ble to align things in the frame do it semi-au­to­mat­i­cally. The things be­ing lined up can be the edges of a sub­ject, like the walls of a build­ing, or a row of units, like cows in a field, and it’s ul­ti­mately very per­sonal. For some pho­tog­ra­phers it’s a sign of neat­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, but at the other end of the scale there are peo­ple who feel it’s a bit cold and cal­cu­lat­ing, and gets in the way of sim­ply grab­bing the emo­tion or at­mos­phere in a scene. Here, ob­vi­ously, I’m pro­mot­ing the idea of align­ment, but it’s cer­tainly not a rule to be obeyed rigidly for ev­ery sin­gle photo you take.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, you can line two or more things up by repo­si­tion­ing your­self so that they look as if they fit, or you can line things up with one or more of the edges of your frame. Or even, if you’re lucky, do both at once. Even wonky cam­era an­gles of­ten have their ba­sis in align­ment. Garry Wino­grand was known for tilt­ing his cam­era this way and that, but de­lighted in telling peo­ple ‘But they’re not tilted, you see.’ He went on to say ‘I never do it with­out a rea­son… I have a pic­ture of a beg­gar, where there’s an arm com­ing into the frame from the side. And the arm is par­al­lel to the hor­i­zon­tal edge and it makes it work.’

From this view­point only, In­dian work­ers wait­ing in line on gird­ers make an un­ex­pect­edly neat align­ment of ver­ti­cals and hor­i­zon­tals

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