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Monday, May 9, 2011

Photography for Dummies, By Dummies: Episode 03

Ever had a question about photography you wanted to ask, but felt it was too stupid? Now you can feel stupid in private instead!

It has been quite a while since I've posted anything on this series. It probably has a lot to do with the recent influx of photo jobs and opportunities. That's a good thing right? But I would also like to do my best to contribute to the confusion that is photography.

This time around we'll try to work our way around those damned Rules, or otherwise affectionately known as the of the Rules of Composition. In a (terribly small) nutshell, I have found that many are not aware of these Rules (making their photo composition muddled, skewered and without rhyme or reason). However, many more are of the opinion that these Rules should be followed strictly, like Composition-Nazi. The not-so-secret secret is the hallowed middle-ground. Rules of Composition are many and of colorful variety - nevertheless the common factor of all these Rules are the fact that they are mere guidelines. Nothing more. For example, a picture that 'breaks' the Rule of Thirds does not necessarily mean it won't work. Beauty after all, is in the eye of the beholder. That means it's subjective.

Notwithstanding the above, please don't disregard the Rules flagrantly. You may well have noticed that some pictures work, and some totally don't. Much of this has plenty to do with the adherence of certain Rules, to make the picture more appealing and more engaging to the viewer. Enough of the intro then, let's get on with it:-

1. The Rule of Thirds

Arguably the most famous of the Rules - Imagine the rectangle of your photograph is equally divided into 9 smaller boxes by way of 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines. The Rule states that your subject of focus should be placed somewhere around where these 4 lines intersect (as opposed to smack in the centre of at the extreme edge/corner of the picture).

A further progression of this Rule is applicable for landscapes! The line of your horizon (or any other major horizontal line in your picture) should be on either of the 2 horizontal lines. In effect this causes your picture to have either 1/3 space + 2/3 land or 2/3 space + 1/3 land. Give it a try!

Why this works: Following this Rule adds a sense of balance and provides an interesting perspective to your picture.

2. Balancing Elements

As discussed in No.1 above, placing your subject off-centre produces an interesting picture. However, as your subject is pushed further and further into one of the corners of the shot, there tends to be empty spaces. In this case, you may want to fill it in partially with a secondary subject or some background - to balance out the empty space.

Why this works: Following this Rule provides a sense of balance to your pictures and it also makes it appear neater hence more appealing.

3. Leading Lines

The lines found in your picture are important elements of the overall impression of the said picture. By planning and placing the said lines in a particular manner, pattern or direction, you are able to draw the attention of the viewer and direct the said attention as you so wish.

Why this works: This Rule enhances the aesthetic composition of the photo and at the same time it give the pictures its 'story' or 'purpose' by bringing the viewers in a 'journey' directed by the said lines.

4. Symmetry and Patterns

Symmetrical scenes and various other patterns are all around us, both natural and mad-made ones. This is an age-old Rule which directs that the appealing patterns found around us should be shot and documented, particularly in situations where you would not expect to find such. An alternative to this idea is that you can also shoot breaks in common patterns (where you do not expect to see such breaks) in order to generate interest in the picture.

Why this works: Who doesn't like the look of elaborate, symmetrical patterns, especially in nature, where such patterns may turn out in a spectacular way!

5. Depth

You don't have to be a genius to see that photographs are essentially 2-dimentional images. Therefore composition in pictures are crucial to convey a particular feeling of depth which was present at the scene. One method to add depth to your photo is to 'place' object in the foreground, middle and/or background. Another method is to intentionally block one object with another - forcing the mind to automatically recognize the multiple layers present. Yet another way it to induce bokeh - to blur the background thereby distinctly separating the subject from the background.

Why this works: This gives your photo character as well as a sort of 3D effect, instead of a regular flat picture.

6. Framing

The natural world is surrounded with frames. From archways, to trees, to holes, to buildings - the possibilities are endless. Imagine carrying around an empty photo frame to help you direct your photos when you go shooting with your camera. Now imagine that instead of using an actual photo frame, you use parts of your surroundings to form a 'frame' around your subject. This method of composition helps to isolate the subject from the outside world and focuses the attention of viewer towards the main point of interest.

Why this works: This method is extremely effective is drawing attention towards your subject of interest. The isolating factor cannot be discounted as I have seen this method used to create a sense of solitary or loneliness in pictures.

Please note that these so-called Rules are not definite! There are more Rules than the six I provided above. As mentioned above, Rules of Composition will invaluable to your general photography. However, if the Rules need to be broken, it may not be such a bad thing!

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact me, either personally, or you may comment through this Photoblog of mine. Just don't forget to leave you name and contact e-mail for me to get back to you!

[Note to viewers: I initially wanted to insert pictures to explain the matter further. However, due to time constraints, I was not able to find the relevant shots. I completed 2 shoots over the weekend with almost 1,000 pictures to edit!]

For those of you who are interested in viewing the other articles of the Photography for Dummies, By Dummies series, please click on the links below!

Episode 1: I'm new to photography. What camera should I buy?

Episode 2: Light modifiers (Diffusers and such).

For those of you who like statistics:
Vital Stats for May: 3 post 95 pics
Vital Stats So Far: 72 posts 2,883 pics

Disclaimer: The views published in the above photoblog are the author's and the author's alone. If readers are not agreeable with the above views, well, you can bugger-off. All rights are reserved for the photos and the article itself. This article may be reproduced with permission of the author for private or public usage, or other forms of general mayhem. Thank you for reading this disclaimer.

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