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Beginner's Guide to Photography -Composition No.2

Updated on October 29, 2017
Dave Proctor profile image

Dave is a experienced professional photographer, now semi-retired and living the high life in sunny Spain

Point of Interest

Going back to my schoolboy days, many years ago, one of the first rules of artistic composition that we were taught is that it is important to have a point of interest. One that attracts the eye and is the focus of the picture.

This is particularly pertinent in landscape photography as it not only gives the picture a sense of purpose and a focal point, it can assist give the scene scale.

Here are some examples;


Whilst a lovely scene in Croatia, there is no point of interest.
Whilst a lovely scene in Croatia, there is no point of interest.
Here the scene's point of interest is the small boats, which also give scale to the picture
Here the scene's point of interest is the small boats, which also give scale to the picture
Not all points of interest need to be pretty!
Not all points of interest need to be pretty!

It will also assist if the point of interest is brightly coloured. The standard joke is that every landscape could do with a girl in a red coat in it!


Rule of Thirds

Whilst not always possible, it can dramatically help a photograph if the point of interest is on the third.

So what do we mean by this.

When you are photographing a person, it tends to be the eyes that are the centre of attention.

If you look at the eyes of this singer, the eyes are one third of the way into the photograph from the left and one third of the way down the photograph.

So we can say that the point of interest is on the third. Here are some more examples:


Being on the third, your eye is drawn to the water coming out of the fountain
Being on the third, your eye is drawn to the water coming out of the fountain

One other point in this section is that generally it is preferable to try to avoid putting your point of interest centrally in the frame. Now sometimes this is unavoidable, but is a point that should be considered.

Also when you have a horizon in your picture, it is always advisable if you have this on the upper third if you want to emphasise the sea or land and the lower third if you want to emphasise the sky.

Here is an example where I wanted to highlight the sky:


Leading Lines

One of the aspects of composition is to think about how your eye is going to move around the photograph.

One of the 'aids' to this is to use leading lines, these are lines within the picture that lead your eye to move towards the point of interest.

Here is an example:

Here the trees create the affect of leading lines, drawing your eyes towards the Church, which is the main point of interest
Here the trees create the affect of leading lines, drawing your eyes towards the Church, which is the main point of interest

Actually, the way the eye moves around a picture is more complex than just using leading lines, but using them properly is a great start.

The eye (at least in Western people) normally starts at the bottom left of a page, moves towards the centre, then moves around the central area anti-clockwise, so the eye movement across the page will initially go, some thing like:


Now have a look at the following photograph.

The natural way to look at this photograph is to look firstly at the stall in the bottom left and see the two standing ladies and the one seated in yellow. Your eve will then continue towards the centre of the photograph and see the group of people and the stall at the end of the street, then the house behind it and to the left the solar panels.

Hopefully you agree this is right!

Balance

Another 'rule' worth consideration are balancing elements.

In this the elements of the picture are finely balanced to produce almost a symmetrical equilibrium. Here are a couple of examples:


Whilst not perfectly balanced, I think this photo is fun!
Whilst not perfectly balanced, I think this photo is fun!

Conclusion

It may be worthwhile having a look through your photographs and looking where these elements of the 'rules' you have used naturally and also have a look at others where perhaps you could have applied them, say by using the Rule of Thirds

Indeed you could try either using software or physically masking the pictures to see how they would look.

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