Welcome to the second in the series of posts dealing with the more “artsy” side to photography. In my last post (here), we introduced an important compositional guideline referred to as “the rule of thirds”. This post will introduce three more “rules” or guidelines aimed at improving the quality of your photos.
Once more, a general proviso applies: all “rules” stated here are indeed just generally accepted “best practices”, and therefore not something you HAVE to conform with. Use them if you feel they improve your shots, but be aware that ultimately it all depends on what you like, before anything else. (Unless of course you’re in a competition, in which case, DO take note of these rules as judges typically penalise those that break them!)
Lines or things going through people’s heads: Whenever you’re taking a photo of one or more persons, be aware of the background against which your subject is posing. Most times we come across photos with lines, trees, poles, signs and all sorts of other things seemingly ’emerging’ out of people’s heads. Whilst you and your subject might not mind looking like a deer with antlers, bear in mind that in artistic photography circles, you would drop points, so to speak. Therefore, be aware of what you make your subject pose against, and if there are lines or objects seemingly going through or jutting out of the subject’s head, tell them to move around, or do so yourself.
Consider the before and after photos of Giulia, my daughter, presented below:
Why? Simple really, you want attention to be on your subject, not on background distractions. Since lines draw the viewer’s attention, a line going through your subject’s head (such as a horizon) would typically detract from the quality of the image. Ditto when it comes to other objects.
“Negative Space”: Whilst not technically a rule, you should also be aware of the concept of negative space when composing your shot. Negative space is described as being that area (or space) in an image that is not your subject, that is, it would lie around and between your main subject. This is not a trivial notion. If you were following carefully, my first post dealt with “the rule of thirds” and one of the suggestions was to place the subject on a third intersection point. In addition to the benefits described in the first post, such placement generally also ‘creates’ a large area of negative space to the left or right of the subject. For instance, check the images below:
Why? By being aware of the negative space around your subject, you can improve your composition making it more “natural” or logical. The rule is to allow space where the subject needs it: therefore, be guided by where the subject is headed to, looking at or what it is facing. This improves the connection between the viewer of the image and the subject being presented, as it allows for more visual imagination.
Leading Lines: Once again, this is not really a ‘rule’ per se, but a compositional guideline that says that lines in an image help direct the eye through the image. Leading lines are a very effective tool to show perspective and to draw ‘depth’ in an otherwise flat object: after all, remember that the photograph is two-dimensional (2D)!
Ideally, such “leading lines” should direct to your main subject, but the lines are sometimes the subject in themselves! It is also common practice to start off leading lines from a corner in the photo, as opposed to entering into the frame from the middle of the photograph. One final tip – in societies where one reads from left-to-right, lines typically start off from the left-corners (top/bottom/both), but in those where people read from right-to-left, the opposite is true!
Now, consider the images below, can you spot the “lines” I used to draw the viewer’s attention throughout the image?
Why? Using lines in a photograph is all about making the viewer ‘know’ what you want them to see in the image. The lines typically act as ‘pointers’ in the image, guiding the viewer through the the image and helping put your photographic message across.
That is all for Part 2, three more tips for you to consider when composing a shot. So let’s recap:
1. Avoid lines or objects coming from behind persons’ heads.
2. Use negative space creatively, taking into account direction of travel or line of sight.
3. Use leading lines to direct the viewers’ attention through the image or to your main subject.
Thanks for sticking by and come again for Part 3 in the coming days!