Master innovative composition options for images that show the world in a unique way
Composition is the most fundamental of photographic skills, since decisions made during this process ultimately control what viewers see within the frame. Framing decisions are more of an instinctive process than beginners often realise, possibly because of the many misconceptions regarding the ‘rules’ of composition. While the Rule of Thirds and Golden Spiral are useful guides to arranging objects within the image, they are intended to help photographers work with the majority of average situations. In fact, there are many occasions when it is better to deviate from the standard formulae and build a creative composition on a scene-specific basis.
A key professional skill is recognising when to make this departure, which should be considered when attempting to arrange complex scenes that fail to fit the spatial requirements for the standard rules. In other circumstances, it is possible to intentionally misapply these for purposes of directing viewer focus. When planning any image, start by placing key areas according to standard practice, then examine how the composition can be improved for greater impact and originality. Alter the focal length, camera height, angle and orientation to make the frame fit the current scene, or alternatively, vary the native aspect ratio to help the scene fit your desired composition. These inverse philosophies cover any potential environment and allow the photographer to impose their creative ambitions on the subject. While altering your approach to fit a scene is effective at generating ‘correct’ compositions that follow the rules, for your creativity to truly flourish, location elements must be made to work for you.
For every object, choose how you want it to fit within the wider scene and decide if it is actually required. Focal length and camera position can be used to exclude extraneous items from the frame to limit context or redirect the main area of viewer attention. Alternatively include areas, but obscure context, via the use of depth of field and perspective compression. Creative motivation can be aided by working in reverse to conventional thinking – aim to produce arresting negative space, to provide a dramatic environment to complement your subject.
AboveAGAINST THE GRAIN IMAGES THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO THE USUAL PHOTOGRAPHIC RULES CAN MAKE THE MOST OF A SUBJECT’S GRAPHIC PROPERTIES, SUCH AS THIS AREA OF RED CLOSE TO THE FRAME EDGES