Art of Composition-II
by Shahinur Islam
Theme, Emphasis, Simplicity
These are three things that you need to bear in mind to compose photographs. Before that, fix your subject. Now determine the theme, put emphasis on your subject, and simply the background.
Theme: Choose the core message of your photograph that you’d like to convey to the viewers. The message may be about love, about childhood, about parents, or simply about aesthetic beauty. Or anything. But you need to decide it. To find it out, just ask yourself, “Why do I want to take the photo?” You should have a theme because it makes a photograph different from a snapshot, because it makes an artistic piece.
Emphasis: Focus on your subject where the viewers will look at. There are a number of techniques to show emphasis, such as framing choice—vertical or horizontal format, placing subject on the rule of thirds, selective focus to blur the background, or using perspective.
Simplify: To simplify your composition, you must not put distracting elements in your composition. Keep in mind that everything in your photograph somehow or other bespeaks of your chosen theme. There shouldn’t be any element that doesn’t harmonize your theme. You can use selective focus and depth of field for this purpose.
Look through the viewfinder
Rule of Thirds: Divide your viewfinder into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically. Now you’ll get four intersections. Each section of the photograph should have some information of your theme or subject. Don’t place your subject in the dead center. Place in one-third and use the other two-thirds to balance your composition. Your theme of the image will determine where in the viewfinder you’re going to place. It’s a question of emphasis. You can put emphasis on the size, on the detail, on the beauty, on the shape, or on the action—moving into or out of the frame.
Horizontal or Vertical: You can turn your camera in a vertical format or a horizontal format. But you should match the shape of the frame with the shape of the subject. That is another key point of composition. Just try both ways and see which format works better.
The frame shape should always match the shape of the subject. For example, if you capture a skyline scene, you’ve to do it horizontally. Because that’s how we view a skyline. On the contrary, if you shoot a tower, you’ve to do it vertically. Because like buildings, towers are also vertical.
Pay attention to the shape of the real subject when choosing the frame shape. Not only what you see in the viewfinder.
Perspective is the aspect in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed. For photographs, it is how you want viewers to see the subject mentally. It is what you try to tell or show the viewers about the subject.
Perspective has another definition, too. In art it means the science of painting or drawing, in which objects keep apparent depth and distance. In photography, how can you show depth and distance as it is two-dimensional? The answer is the use of light, the absence of which is the shadow. You need to use light and shadow in such a way as to show depth. If there is no contrast between them, then your photo will feel flat and dull. Showing three-dimensional objects in the two-dimensional photo is a challenge to meet with this way.
Focal point is the point at which the camera is focused at maximum sharpness. If you look into the viewfinder, you can see it in the center with either a circle or a set of brackets. At this point your eye travels first.
Sometimes you might place the focal point off to one side and not in the center of the frame. But the critical focus point must be placed in the center with an autofocus camera. The lack of an obvious focal point is generally found in amateur snapshots.
In-camera cropping means removing the distracting things from the subject. Don’t depend on the printing technicians to crop for you because they don’t know what you really want in your picture. Though you can crop your photos after they have done the job, it’ll double your cost. That’s why, do it in the first time, in the camera.
To do the in-camera cropping, use the viewfinder before you press the shutter button. Check around the subject if there are any disturbing elements to your subject. If it doesn’t look good, neat and clean in the viewfinder, it won’t look the same on the print, either. Rearrange or reposition the subject to remove the unpleasant obstacles. Look if there is anything that looks out-of-place. Keep moving around to different locations until you get a clutter-free scene in the viewfinder.
Isolating the Subject
You need to isolate the subject to show what you want to show by directing viewers’ eye to the focus of attention. Although there are many ways to isolate the subject, here we’ll cover only three of them: framing the subject, selective focus, and depth of field.
Framing the subject
To frame the subject in your viewfinder, make decision whether you’re going for a horizontal or vertical composition. In either case, the frame choice should compliment the subject. The next step is think for a moment look for things you can use to frame your subject. It’ll direct the viewers’ eye towards the centre of interest. Your frame may be a tree, a wall, or a window in the foreground. This technique is called “frame within a frame”.
You can also use patterns, depth of field as a framing device to isolate the subject. If you use a very shallow depth of field, it can blur the background creating a frame, which surrounds the subject.
To apply selective focus technique, you should know how to control depth of field. Then you can make creative use of depth of field and a large aperture to direct the emphasis on the subject by intentionally putting surrounding elements out of focus. Use what needs to be in-focus and what needs to be out of focus as a tool for isolating the subject.
Depth of Field
How much distance in a photograph is in sharp focus is depth of field. The size of the aperture controls the depth of field. The smaller the aperture is the sharper the subject is. The larger the aperture is the less sharp the subject is, or the less depth of field.
The distance also controls the depth of field. The farther away you focus, the larger the depth of field is. The closer you focus, the shallower the depth of field is.
Always focus on the eyes on a human face because if you focus on the eyes, one-third in front (the nose), and two-thirds behind (the ears and hair) will appear in focus.
Choose the best possible aperture in different weather conditions and keep in mind the rule of focus that has one-third in front and two-thirds behind in focus.