Composition is key when it comes to photography. If you’re at the right place at the right time but don’t know how to compose your shot, you might miss a chance to create a beautiful piece of art.
So what is composition? It’s the arrangement of elements within a work of art to convey a message. With that in mind, let’s get to the first type of composition.
- THE RULE OF THIRDS
The concept behind the rule of thirds is that if you were to draw two lines horizontally and two lines vertically over your photo to create a grid of nine equal squares, it will form four key points where the lines intersect. The idea is that you want to position your subject near one of those points. You often see this in movies, where characters on the screen are more to the right or to the left of the shot. Placing key elements near these points will make a photo more dynamic.
When capturing an image, these lines can be viewed in your camera, or you can mentally visualize them. In postproduction, you can use it as an overlay on your image when using the Crop Overlay tool (R) to help make a photo more pleasing to the eyes. In Lightroom Classic, you can find the Thirds overlay option under Tools>Crop Guide Overlay. You can also tap the letter O to cycle through all the various crop overlays.
In this example, the sky is more interesting so I wanted to have the top 2/3 of the image filled with the sky and the lower third with the land, with the horizon close to the second horizontal line.
- LEADING LINES
To add depth to your photos, you can use natural leading lines to guide the eyes of the viewer into your photo. This can be very effective when you can find a line that starts from the point of view of the viewer and heads straight into the photo, like in the image shown here. The other lines converge in the distance, leading viewers’ eyes to the yellow building.
- FRAME IN THE FRAME
Using natural elements in a scene to create a frame around your main subject will focus the viewer’s attention. This is a cool trick to make your subject really stand out. It’s fun to play with this concept in nature, and it can really embellish your main subject.
- FOREGROUND, MIDDLE GROUND, AND BACKGROUND
This is definitely the hardest compositional trick. The idea is to have a foreground element that contributes to your message, gives it a sense of where the photo was taken, and adds depth to your photo. It’s easy to take a pretty photo of the beach or a city view, but if you have a great foreground element, it will take your photo to the next level. Make sure that you find a nice, aesthetic element, not something distracting or that’s a high-frequency texture like dirt or messy grass. It has to be an element that’s related to your subject and adds that extra value to your message.
Last, but not least.
- A STRONG STORY
All of those tricks are useless if your message is confusing. The idea is to communicate simple things: include elements that will contribute to your message and exclude elements that are just distracting. This photo simply communicates a beautiful sunset on a beach in Iceland, but the reality was that there were 50 photographers behind me taking photos. So if I wanted to show photographers taking a photo, I’d have included them, but instead, I simply got closer and zoomed in on the key elements and the beauty of the moment. That’s very important!
So there you have it, the five key elements of composition. You can practice each of them and work at improving the composition in your images using these tricks. You’ll see it really is more fun than work. Enjoy!
ALL IMAGES BY SERGE RAMELLI