In-Depth Photography Composition Tutorial

Discussion in 'Articles of Interest' started by antongorlin, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. antongorlin

    antongorlin TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    14
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    This post consolidates all my expertise and skill, and it took me over 6 months to get together. I believe anyone could learn something new from it. There are many articles, but I still decided to create a big composition guide beautifully displayed and easy to follow. I tried to keep it straightforward and brief with loads of materials to download for future use. Also, I keep it as compact as possible for such a significant volume of information. Less noise, more useful info with illustrations, diagrams and charts.
    [​IMG]

    COMPOSITION CONCEPT AND PRINCIPLES
    Before going far into the composition building methods, we must realise what the composition truly is, how it is produced, what milestones it has and how it influences our thought.

    VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL ALIGNMENT
    The general approach is to pick a horizontal frame when the frame dynamic is mostly horizontal and vice versa. In some cases, you could do the reverse to raise tension leaving some breathing space around it.
    [​IMG]

    STORYTELLING USING PHOTOS
    Storytelling is the reason of any photo. We want to show what we have seen. If it has nothing to convey, it’s a snap. This entire tutorial is about various means of storytelling. As an example, you start reading a book from the beginning to understand what is it about. It should have a plot, a narrative and a defined structure. It is the same in visual arts. A photo must have a subject, a layout and a context. They form your visual narrative. Therefore, consider composition a storytelling tool.

    Please review an illustration below and see how the crop changes the story. Try to decide what’s the idea behind every final picture.

    [​IMG]

    COMPOSITION TECHNIQUES
    Let's go deeper and learn some rules and methods that you can execute for immediate results. Some of the ways could seem to oppose each other, but that simply indicates you can’t use them both simultaneously.

    I must warn you – none of these methods will transform you into a great photographer. Practice and study will. How long do musicians study? How many out of them become composers? In the modern age of digital cameras and editing tools, one can advance to generate good pics in a year or less. But it doesn’t mean these photos have a good layout. Majority of photographers stop at the Rule of Thirds. It could be enough to do OK images, but there’s a ton of work to master all of them.

    LEADING LINES
    A leading line makes the observer’s eyes follow it. This line traverses across the image and helps to understand it. There are many ways to create a leading line. The easiest one is to use some solid line, like a wall or a road. Another one is a broken line made of different objects, which imply a connection between them.
    [​IMG]

    DIAGONALS
    Building diagonals is simple and straightforward. They are everywhere, always try to add some to the photo. A sparse change of angle converts a horizontal line into a diagonal, and the observer will readily follow it with their eyes. The diagonals operate best when they commence from the corners.

    There are two methods to put diagonals in the picture:
    [​IMG]

    The most common is to draw lines from one corner to another. The other way is to use 45 degrees lines forming a diamond in the middle.

    ASCENDING/DESCENDING DIAGONAL
    The direction of the diagonal influences how we perceive it. So does the ascending/descending aspect. As we scan the photo left-to-right, we see some diagonals as a challenge to overcome and others as an easy way down.

    STORYTELLING EXAMPLE
    Let's use the below example to see how we perceive the situation.
    [​IMG]

    It's obvious that just positioning and flipping of the picture gives an entirely different context and tells a different story.

    GOLDEN TRIANGLE
    Golden triangle is formed by a diagonal line and perpendicular lines to it from other corners.

    S-SHAPED CURVE
    S-shape is compelling and charming. It smoothly arcs through the picture without any tension. The curve is gentle and catchy rather than straightforward. Such shots look natural, and the spectator has no chances to avoid the flow.

    [​IMG]

    CENTRAL COMPOSITION
    Nearly every guide wants you to avoid putting elements in the middle. But that's not right! You surely can build everything around one most important object. Consider this as a more centrist, egoistic strategy. It’s important to have just one hero for this type of frame. It has to be the core of gravity.
    [​IMG]

    Another tale is that you can't put the horizon into the centre. This is correct when foreground and background have an equal weight. You can put it in the middle in many other cases:

    1. One part is stronger than the other one.
    2. When the horizon is not one of your important lines.
    3. Panoramic shots.

    RESEMBLANCE
    An elegant technique is to discover a resemblance between completely different objects. The key is to see similar forms and emphasise them with the composition. Once you have witnessed similarities, use different composition rules to produce the photo. The likeness could be straight or mirror.
    [​IMG]

    FINAL WORD
    This article is merely a part of the full guide found on my site. The entire tutorial contains a lot more examples, recommendations, principles and concepts to consider and has a new chapter not covered here - the Composition Building Blocks. If you liked reading this little excerpt covering 10% of the full article, please navigate to my blog and enjoy the whole thing. The format and size of this post have been approved with the admin.


     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2018
    • Like Like x 6
    • Winner Winner x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. weepete

    weepete TPF Supporters Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2011
    Messages:
    4,502
    Likes Received:
    1,431
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Very good article!
     
  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2012
    Messages:
    16,786
    Likes Received:
    4,229
    Location:
    Iowa
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Thank you!
     
  4. antongorlin

    antongorlin TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2017
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    14
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    thanks for your feedback!
     
  5. Tim Tucker 2

    Tim Tucker 2 TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2017
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Scotland
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit


    Very good article.

    I like the way you describe composition against the way we order our spaces such as our rooms. I would put more emphasis on that we create the order that allows us to make sense of the space, it doesn't exist naturally. We as humans need to have an ordered understanding, and it's this that we *impose* on our surroundings in order to make sense of them.

    I would also include the idea of "compositional climax" as it goes along the same lines of your keeping contrasty objects off the edges. I also note that the second set of diagonals you included, (diagonal method), are based on rabatment.

    Further to this the order that we create is very much influenced by our language. It is this language that creates the framework against which we create an ordered understanding, the labels for the boxes in which we fit our surroundings in order to make sense of them.

    For a graphic example of this there is the Himba tribe. Their language of colour differs from ours. We understand the spectrum and universally label colour according to hue, the Himba in their language do not. Theirs is more like an artistic understanding and is labeled in perceptual terms of bright/dark, tertiary/vibrant. So show them a series of greens and ask them to point at the odd one out they recognise it straight away, as if it were a blue amongst greens. But such a distinction is difficult for us to the point that many of us can't do it correctly. But reverse this and show them the blue amongst greens and they have as much difficulty as us in distinguishing the odd one out of the greens.

    It is interesting because it shows that the way we see is influenced by the language and conventions we use to create an ordered understanding, perception is learnt rather than absolute. It does not exist but is created in our quest to *apply* order to enable us to understand and navigate.

    It is also interesting because it raises two more points, that different cultures will have different *rules* of composition simply because their language and the way they label is different. But also that because it is learnt it hints at the biggest trap for photographers:

    That what we learn influences what we see and how we understand. In simple terms once we learn a few *rules* we not only look for them but apply them to gain an understanding of the picture. And here lies the danger, that we teach ourselves to see and recognise the very order we seek to impose. We think that because we see it it is absolute and actually there, but it isn't. It's in our minds because *we* learn to see and judge composition by it.

    I am also reserved about your leaving colour out of the guide because not only do we always see in colour, (even with a B&W we seek to equate it to our *colour* understanding), but it's the biggest stumbling block I see in many photos. Like the example with the Himba who see differences on brightness clearly but not always hue, we see differences in hue but don't seem to understand perceptual brightness of colour. It leaves the guide concentrating on shape, line and form. A vocabulary of contrast and line and little understanding of colour, which many images on photo forum show clearly. There are also the five perspectives of the Renaissance that rely heavily on an understanding of colour, not only for contrast but plane and depth perception.

    Your images show this understanding, but an audience accustomed to dissecting by line does not always see this distinction.

    With an appreciation that our understanding is learnt and influenced by the language we use to *create* the ordered space, then an understanding of harmony/dis-harmony can be gained by going with our desire to order or against it. A more abstract take on the "know when to break a rule" concept, but can also include our experience and memory as in presenting images that go with or against what we expect, or are used to seeing. We can use this in composition, not just through line, but colour. Showing both something in line with our experience or something that jars and stands out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2018

Share This Page