Back to Basics: Rules of Photographic Composition
With the advent of the digital camera and home computer, more and more people are fancying themselves “photographers” without having a basic understanding of photographic composition
Just by knowing a few photographic basics, the novice can be helped immensely, and even those that have been at it for quite some time can always use a reminder, myself included. There are several compositional rules, but I am going to talk about the ones that I find the most important.
1. The Rule of Thirds
2. The Golden Rule
Similar to The Rule of Thirds in its concept, but a little different in execution. This was developed hundreds of years prior to photography and was used by the ancient Greeks in their architecture and art. Leonardo da Vinci elaborated on this theory, relating it to proportional harmony.
Imagine your image again divided into nine parts by four lines, but this time, the lines are closer together in the middle of the image both vertically and horizontally. The resulting sections proportional width to the entire frame is the key here. Each line is drawn so that the width of the resulting small part of the image relates to that of the big part exactly as the width of the whole image relates to the width of the big part. Points where the lines intersect are the "golden" points of the picture. By placing items at or near these intersections, and along these lines, the proportions of the image relate peacefulness and serenity to the viewer.
3. The Diagonal Rule
Simply stated, linear elements in the image, such as paths, roads, important shadows, fences, streams, etc… when placed along a major diagonal are much more dynamic than when placed horizontally or vertically.
4. Leading Lines
Use natural lines within your image to lead the viewers eye where you want it to go.
Separate your subject from the background. You can do this by using a shallow depth of field, or by using a contrasting background.
Now, be aware that adherence to these rules will not guarantee you a good photograph, and there are many good photographs that don’t adhere to these rules, but by knowing the basic compositional guidelines, you can certainly increase your chances. It’s OK to break the rules, but you need to be breaking them for a reason.
Questions? Just ask.