THE ONLY REAL RULE: SIM­PLIFY

NPhoto - - Feature -

For pho­to­graphic com­po­si­tion I think in terms of cre­at­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions out of chaos, rather than fol­low­ing any con­ven­tional rules of com­po­si­tion. Ansel Adams

The best com­po­si­tions are sim­ple. The pho­tog­ra­pher’s point stands out clearly with­out dis­trac­tions or clut­ter.

The sin­gle most com­mon pho­to­graphic mis­take is in­clud­ing too much in the frame. Imag­ine some­one walk­ing through Yosemite Val­ley who de­cides to pho­to­graph Half Dome. With­out think­ing, he snaps a pic­ture. Later he no­tices that, in ad­di­tion to Half Dome, the photo in­cludes sky, trees, a meadow, plus a bus on the road, and Half Dome has be­come lost in the chaos.

Don’t be like him! Take a mo­ment to think. What caught your eye in the first place? Make the pho­to­graph about that, and noth­ing else. If a com­po­si­tion isn’t work­ing, move in closer or use a longer lens. Do­ing ei­ther will au­to­mat­i­cally crop out un­nec­es­sary ma­te­rial and sim­plify the de­sign. If you’re try­ing to com­bine two el­e­ments, but they don’t seem to mesh, then con­cen­trate on just one of them.

1 golden mean The rule of thirds says that if you di­vide a pho­to­graph into thirds, both ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally, those lines, and the places where they in­ter­sect, are strong points to put a point of in­ter­est. This rule is a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the golden mean which is closer to 2/5 than 1/3 [shown above].

2 JOIN­ING fore­ground and back­ground There must be lines, shapes, or colours that tie the two to­gether; if not the photo will look dis­jointed. Here, the mounds of snow echo the round shape of dis­tant Half Dome.

3 Elim­i­nat­ing Dis­trac­tions This first im­age of the small wa­ter­fall isn’t bad (3A), but I felt that the dark rocks were dis­tract­ing. I de­cided that what most caught my eye was the streaks of fall­ing wa­ter and the golden re­flec­tion above, and used a longer lens to fill the frame with these most es­sen­tial com­po­nents (3B).

4 Adding Im­pact This first pho­to­graph is a nice, straight­for­ward ren­di­tion of Ver­nal Fall (4A). It shows what the wa­ter­fall looked like, but didn’t cap­ture the noise and power of the wa­ter. So I found a part of the fall that, to me, con­veyed that feel­ing bet­ter (4B).

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