A conversation on "composing an image"

Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
edited November 2014 in General Discussions
Their are many characteristics that make an image stand out. One key element for me is: composition. So lets talk about them.

I will start with perhaps one of the most commonly used: The Rule of Thirds. This article covers it perfectly.

The floor is yours....
Post edited by Golf007sd on
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Comments

  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    sorry but I want to talk about something else ...yes given rule of third goldenrule etc is good.. I find that there is another aspect I like to discuss ..

    The crafted image (A) vs what you have (B) and how to get from B to A. What I mean by crafted images are like what you can see from panels of comic books or good Movies. second question is is it an aim for us to get from B to A .. do we lose something if we are able to do it. ie photographer grades .. grade 1 is you get a poor (B) image grade 2 you get a good (B) image grade 3,4,5 you progress to a (A) image.. but really when you get to grade 6, 7, 8 dont you get back to a GREAT (A) image?

    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited November 2014
    when I mentioned, The Rule of Thirds, to my teacher ( decades ago) he just said "rules are meant to be broken" one a piece of advice I have always followed

    A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.
    Jean-Luc Godard

    I think this is also true of an image
    anyone else agree


    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 559Member
    The way I think about it: You want to guide the viewers attention - what is important and what is not. This is very important in an image where a lot is going on.

    The rule of thirds is one way of dealing with the viewers attention. Another way is to use narrow DOF.
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    Composition is is probably my biggest problem with my picture takin'

    I know the rules of composition. But when looking through the VF, I still struggle with deciding which rule to use and how to apply it.

    A photographer can find a good composition. A good photographer can make a good composition.

    I know which catagory I am in. :)

    There is only so much you can learn about composition from books. In my opinion, it really is an experience and practice thing. Rats! :)
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Prior to Nikon rumors I had never heard of the rule of thirds. Since hearing I haven't cared. If any of my images follow the rule it is by coincidence and not because I am trying to adhere to it. Although 98% of the time I shoot to please myself and if I like the way it looks then that is all I need.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    I like the book "The Photographer's Mind" by Freeman. The other books in the series are good, but I learned a lot about composition beyond the "rules" in this book. It is not an easy book to read and honestly, it took me 2-3 readings to understand what he was getting at... but it was worth the effort.
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited November 2014
    But when looking through the VF, I still struggle with deciding which rule to use and how to apply it.

    ....Rats! :)
    Some tips
    Look up what Douglas Bader had to say about rules
    Have a careful look at the subject without looking through the viewfinder
    For landscapes, spend some time walking in and around the landscape, before you get the camera out
    If you are unhappy with results of an often photographer subject
    after you have given it you best shot. Look up Google images and see if any one has made a better job. Try and see what is different, and why you like their version;
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    edited November 2014
    I tend to think of composition as where the objects in the photograph are placed in the frame chosen. However, color and expression and subject can also be considered elements as much as the objects are.

    Here it is the color and the shape of the frame chosen which makes the photo in my opinion:
    DSC_1077

    Another example of color (and rule of thirds):
    CardinalInTreeWaitingForTurn

    Here it is the expressing which makes the photo in my opinion:
    DON_5505

    Here is a combination of an unusual position and atmosphere which gives the image an oriental art type feel:
    800_0153
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • dissentdissent Posts: 1,265Member
    Have a careful look at the subject without looking through the viewfinder
    Ask yourself, "What is it about this subject that is catching my attention?"

    Find a way to isolate it, emphasize it, contrast it.

    Now pick up your camera. Right lens? Right settings? etc. Keep working the subject. Was your initial view the best view?

    I'm certainly trying to get better at this myself.
    - Ian . . . [D7000, D7100; Nikon glass: 35 f1.8, 85 f1.8, 70-300 VR, 105 f2.8 VR, 12-24 f4; 16-85 VR, 300 f4D, 14E-II TC, SB-400, SB-700 . . . and still plenty of ignorance]
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I almost feel embarrassed by all this talk about reading books and how much time is put into people's composition and premeditated picture taking. I usually walk around see a neat view or contrast...snap a picture and I am off again. I have on rare occasions come back to a location for different light or something but for a large part I am impatient and very opportunistic.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    Ask yourself, "What is it about this subject that is catching my attention?"

    I think that is the key. Something about the scene, catches the eye of the photographer. Now it is up to the skill of the photographer to faithfully record what caught the eye.

    Hmm, there is that word skill again. Damn, that keeps popping up when discussing photographic techniques. I gotta get me some of that. :)

    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    edited November 2014
    Here is an example of rule of thirds (horizon is at top third of frame) and leading lines (stone fence) to draw your eye into the image subject (house and barn):

    CCC0073LE1of100Small

    Here is an example of rule of thirds (tree trunk on right) and a colorful pattern (yellow leaves/blue sky) and distortion (moving water) to create a French Impressionist painting type look:
    DON_9095w.flickr.com/photos/76080384@N03/10256744523" title="DON_9095 by donaldejose, on Flickr">DON_9095
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    edited November 2014
    Here is an example of using a frame within a frame. The colorful tree is upside down in the water and is framed in the frame by the log over the stream and the bank on this side of the stream.
    R0093LE1of100

    Same subject same inner frame but different (vertical and wider view) external frame:
    R0094LE1of100Small

    Nothing other than a colorful pattern:
    DON_9068

    Also just a colorful pattern:
    DON_8327

    A flower arrangement reduced to a colorful pattern:
    DON_0575
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Just light flowing over the shape of an ordinary subject (like Edward Weston's black and white images of vegetables):
    DON_7301

    Rule of thirds (green stem) plus light flowing over the curves of a common object:
    DON_7307

  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Placing the subject on a diagonal line across the frame:
    DSC_3432

    Another diagonal line going through the two subjects:
    DSC_1819a

    Another diagonal line composition:
    DSC_1576

    Another diagonal line composition:
    DSC_1516
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Example of trying to use composition to turn something not photogenic into something more visually attractive. A guy I know was having a party at his row house on a block where he has lived for 80 years. I don't find it a photogenic place but it means a lot to him. So I tried to photographic his house and this is what I got at first.
    600_5000

    Didn't like it at all. So I moved across the street to include a tree as a frame:
    600_4999

    Better to my eye but the bottom third of the frame doesn't add anything to the image so I changed the frame:
    600_4998

    Better now. Still not an image I like but my friend is very happy with it because it is his lifelong neighborhood which generates a lot of warm memories for him. Just an example of the same subject shot three different ways using principles of composition to improve the visual image as much as I could for this old man who loves that street in the city.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    To me the bottom line with composition is twofold:

    1. When you are photographing for a client can you produce an image they are pleased with? If so, you are fine and don't have to worry much about learning new techniques of composition.

    2. When you are photographing for yourself as an artist can you produce an image you are pleased with? If so, the rules of composition be dammed. Produce what is pleasing to your "artist's eye." If you really do have that artist's eye your image will be attractive.

    A good place to study composition is at an art gallery. Artists start from a blank canvas and can put anything anywhere on that canvas. Colors, shapes, objects are all placed in a way the artist's eye sees as pleasing. Ask yourself why each item is where it is on that canvas.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited November 2014
    Have a careful look at the subject without looking through the viewfinder
    Ask yourself, "What is it about this subject that is catching my attention?"

    Find a way to isolate it, emphasize it, contrast it.

    Now pick up your camera. Right lens? Right settings? etc. Keep working the subject. Was your initial view the best view?

    I'm certainly trying to get better at this myself.
    Nice input by all...thank you.

    For me, I'm always attentive when it comes to composition. I fully agree with what dissent has said above. Their have been many times that I will bring one of my hands to my face, pretending it to be a viewfinder as I look through it, from multiple angles and then proceed in taking the shot.

    @sevencrossing: I'm with you. In the world of photography, some rules can be over looked.

    @donaldejose: Thanks for all the examples and links.

    Composition is a challenge for all photographers; more so, if you are a working professional; hence PitchBlack remarks. The key is to open up your view of the seen or subject, while at the same time, keeping some of the rules in mind, and trying to implant them. Start out with one or two you can comprehend, then focus in taking all your shots that day by implementing them. That is to say, work on capturing images with Leading Lines, and then see if you can apply the Rule of Thirds as well.

    Keep them coming :D
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • HipShotHipShot Posts: 464Member
    Great thread, great photos!
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    When composing, I find myself thinking a lot about the background and how will it complement, or at least not detract from, the subject.

    Do I want it sharp, perhaps to add context? Do I want it out of focus, to isolate the subject? Then how much out of focus?

    Are the shapes, colous, shadows and highlights complemantary to the subject? Particularly true when I am looking for a nice bokeh, but also applicable with a sharp bacground.

    All of this I am thinking about in the context of the previous well said points in this thread.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    As PitchBlack's photo illustrates when you have a person or an animal looking or walking to one edge of the frame good composition is to allow that person or animal "room" to move or look in that side frame rather than centering the person or animal. I guess psychologically our minds want to give the person more space in the direction they are looking or walking.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,535Member
    At a very early age my Dad taught me the rule of thirds and later told me it was okay to break that rule. I used it for years with scenery and people. As I grew older I stopped taking pictures and became a family documentation photography. Then I reinvented myself and started shooting and working a lot on composition.

    About five years I discovered I had too many unlevel horizons and turned on the grid lines. That helped me in two ways...leveled my horizons and I started paying attention to the rule of thirds thanks to the grid lines. When I got the D7100 I assigned the horizon aid to the Function button. Wow did that make a difference. Now when I grab the camera I surprise myself when I hit the function button, 90% of the time I am spot on level. That is all I needed.

    There are a number of good books out there as several have said. I always encourage photographers to read at least one to improve on there composition skills. Finally, one of the camera clubs I belonged to years ago did a photo contest each month and for six months it was composition. Started with rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, breaking rule of thirds, etc. That is a great exercise, spend an hour shooting and focus on one of the composition rules. PAD is a good place to study photos to understand why they work and why they are...average.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
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  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    The modern DSLR's size and their vast amounts of MP can help produce a final image that is well composed during the post processing stage. Many times I have seen images that could have been cropped much more efficiently in order to make the final image for the public to see with, what I felt, yielded good composition.

    Something to think about during post....
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited November 2014
    The modern DSLR's size and their vast amounts of MP can help produce a final image that is well composed during the post processing stage. .
    +1 to that
    36MPs may slow your computer down but there are advantages
    mps are like puddings, shoes and lenses
    you cannot have too many
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
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