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Types of Composition in Photography

What is Composition?

Composition is a placement or arrangement of objects, subjects or anything else that you intend to use in your photography by using a series of elements in your image to emphasise what you are presenting.  It is used to guide a viewers eye to see to see what you are presenting in an image.  This can be in a form of many methods which will be described below.  Care should be taken not to use too many of your of elements in composition as this will make an image look to busy or distracting.  Use too few, your image will not be interesting enough or lose it’s focus on what you are presenting.

Composition can be easily arranged or pre-planned when you are able move objects or subjects depending on your style of photography.  Some example of this are street, portrait, still life, weddings or even moving objects.  Landscape photography is not so easy as obviously we cannot move a cliff line or building.  This is where it becomes more difficult for landscapes as images that are posted on a regular basis for example on social sites of the same area, may or probably will have a similar composition unless you are willing to risk your life by hanging on an edge of a cliff.  Drones however have enabled us to view a landscape from a new view or perspective.

Getting Composition Right

Is it essential to get it right first time?  Well yes.  But it can also be repaired using post-processing via Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One Pro or another favourite image editor you decide to use.  For the latter part sometimes no and this will be down to having a very poorly framed finish, but this will lose perhaps a portion of what you intend to add to the composition.  Getting composition right the first time, is essential.

Preparing your Composition

One of the important factors to consider when composing an image is to explore what you aim to present.  Whether it be an object indoors or a key feature on a landscape, getting your frame right will not come to you first time, it does require practice over time.  It will require some thinking over what kind of composition you intend to use to make your image more interesting.  Remember i mentioned about images looking the same every time.

This will be your opportunity to look at your surroundings & deciding if this can be viewed from a different exciting perspective.  It’s also about visualisation where you question your decisions before committing.  Is this right?  Do I need to move a little closer or further back?  Can I add subjects to make it more interesting?  Do I want the image to have a dark tone with only the subject in focus or do I want it to be presented with all the features in focus?

Planning & preparing what you intend to take is key to producing improved images.
Planning & preparing what you intend to take is key to producing improved images.

Types of Composition

There are many types of composition to suit all kinds of subjects in photography which have been taken from art, or even introduced since photography began all those years ago. Some examples are rule of thirds, golden ratio, framing, open composition, closed composition.  I could go on here, but i will explain the various types further down in this article.

Rule of Thirds

Perhaps more talked about, the rule of thirds is one of the most popular types of composition to add to a photograph.  This divides an image into nine parts with four intersections.  Four lines are supposed to be the more dominant locations in your image when used.

Using Rule of Thirds in this image, i have used dividing lines & intersections to achieve composition.
Using Rule of Thirds in this image, I have used dividing lines & intersections to achieve composition.

It can also be used for various landscape images, such as lining up a horizon on the top line then adding an object or subject at one of the intersections to add more to your image.

Another example of using the rule of thirds. This image has the Preseli Hills & Mountains in the distance. I used the top line to meet around that area then used the track on the right as a leading line whilst using a total of three intersections.

Rule of thirds cannot always be applied to every image, sometimes breaking the rule can give a pleasing result at times.  Some other factors you can add to help emphasise a section of the rule of thirds are:

  • Using brights spots & darkening other areas.
  • Using a particular saturated area such as colours in a sunset.
  • People or animals.  You can see sheep in the above image, but they are too far away to use them effectively.
  • Using large objects/buildings such as a lighthouse.
  • Colours that are strikingly different to the rest of your image.

Golden Spiral

Golden Spiral is a great composition tool, best for use with images containing a solid composition or creating one.

Using the golden spiral, I created an active composition. Note I used this spiral in Photoshop, it is slightly different to a regular spiral but has the same principal.

Simplicity

This is exactly as described, using simplicity to gain composition.  This where you focus on a subject then blur out the background.  This is most effective with nature images or macro photography.  It is essential to use use a stronger, more noticeable colour for your subject than the colour of your background to emphasise what you are presenting.

By using simplicity, I was able to blur out the background to keep a focus on the squirrel.

Framing

Framing is when you use a dark area, with your subject being the brightest part in your image.  Many ways of using framing can be achieved.  One example is below.

A view of a beacon at Porthgain. I used a hole in a wall near the quarry to create a frame around the beacon.

Many other types of composition used in photography can be applied, but I have outlined the main ones used in this post.  I hope it has been of help & use to you.  Please leave a comment below if you have anything to add or have a question.

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