All other things being equal, composition makes the difference between a good photo and an ok photo. No matter how well an image is exposed, even if it's technically perfect, a badly composed image will not work.
A number of factors need to be considered, when composing an image. The first one is the crop. Your camera can not record everything you see and so, when you compose the image, you must select what to include and exclude. Sometimes this is obvious but not always.
In this first image of busts at UL, I've focused on one bust, the green one, the only woman's bust in the image. This was taken with a long lens, 360mm, from a balcony, about 100 meters away.
This is a fairly cluttered image. For one there are four more full busts and one partial bust in the image. It also includes a piece of rock and the stands that they were all displayed on, plus a large white metal frame, a glass frame, reflections on the frame and the large windows behind and distant trees and buildings. So, why does the main subject stand out?
Proper composition. First, there's the selective use of depth of field. I give more detail on this in my blog "Taking that photo". I used F10 for this, knowing that at the focal length I was using that it would give me a narrow depth of field. See my blog "What are F numbers?" for more details.
Only my main subject is in focus but with all of the clutter in the image, you may still not find her. So, where I placed her is also important. There are several rules of composition and the one I use most often, the easiest to use, is the rule of thirds.
Imagine dividing your image in three equal parts vertically and then horizontally, see the red lines in the image on the left.
This forms a grid on the image. If you place your main subject along one of these lines, it has more of an impact and stands out better. By placing your subject close to where the lines cross or at the exact point where they cross, you increase the impact further.
As you can see, my subject's face is placed along the right hand vertical line, just above where it crosses the bottom horizontal line. This is one of the most powerful positions in the image, along with the three other crossing points.
Because she is facing right, it is more common to place her on the left vertical line. This gives her space to walk into, if she could walk and the area she is facing is called positive space. The space behind her is called negative space. It is better to provide more positive space than negative but not always. This is something that you will have to learn with experience and is why it's a good idea to analyse your own and other people's images, to see why they worked or did not work. You can gain quiet a lot from doing this.
In this case I decided to use more negative space for two reasons. It is now obvious that the busts are part of a much bigger display and not just four busts.
There was a pillar close to the busts on the right, which would have split the image, making it look like two images combined. Even though the pillar would have only taken about 10 - 15% of the right side of the image, it would have looked like it was added in. Being white, it would also have attracted the eye away from the subject.
I could have cropped in tighter and not include the bust on the left of the image, which I also did. That image is posted below. Both images work but in different ways.
You will also notice that the top horizontal line runs just over the top of the head of the highest bust, the horizon of the image. It's better to place the horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, the image is more dynamic that way. You will see this in the images I've placed below.
I've also used a leading line, the green line. Often leading lines are actual lines in an image but more often than not they are imaginary but your eye will follow them all the same. By composing the image so that the line of busts appear to be one slightly forward of the other, I've created an imaginary leading line.
Had the white lines in the background been sharp, they would have pulled the eye away from the main subject, another reason to use a shallow depth of field.
I chose this point of view for a number of reasons. One was that this was the least distracting background and because it was a long way away, it was easier to place it out of focus.
Had I shot the bust head on, the background would have been much more cluttered, more busts and rocks would have been included and competed for attention. The wall behind all of this had a very colourful mosaic and a model airplane hung in front of it.
Another reason for not shooting head on was that it would have placed four busts on the same plane. They would all have been in focus and competed for attention. I could have zoomed in on one and excluded the others but I would then have lost the context of the image, which I think is important.
The blue lines between the tops of the busts indicate imaginary triangles in the image. These are especially useful when posing a group of people. Flat lines in an image hold the eye in one place, while sloped and curved lines encourage the eye to move about the image. When your eye moves about an image, you see it as having more life and being more interesting.
Below you will see some images, with the "rule of thirds" grid marked on them, along with leading lines. Notice how I've created circles, ovals and triangles, where possible and not just lines.
What you should do next is look at my galleries and see how I've used the information above to compose my images. Then look at your own images and see where this information applies and how you may have improved your images using the above details. Finally, look at other people's images and see how they have composed their images. Ask yourself what you may have done differently. Always analyse your own images, ask yourself why they work or don't work. This will help you improve constantly. No one is ever so good that they can't improve.
Until next time, enjoy your photography and take good care of yourself and those you love. Feel free to leave comments, ask questions or suggest topics for another blog.