Composition by maclaren1


The modern camera is capable of many things. It can focus for you; work out
exposure for you; select a suitable shutter speed or aperture along with a
multitude of other functions. However useful you may find these functions the
one thing a camera can't do is compose your picture for you. It has no idea
what it is pointing at and it has no idea what you are trying to achieve so you
are on your own.

If you are using an 'auto-everything' camera like a 35mm compact or program
SLR then your main area of control is going to be in the composition of your
photographs. Sadly I can't tell you how to take a great picture as to some
degree it comes down to your ability to 'see' a picture or the potential to create
a picture. Having said that; there are a load of 'rules' and techniques you can
use to improve the final look of your photographs. We will look at a few of the
popular, effective and easy to implement techniques that you will be able to
start using right away.

                                             Quick Tip
        Editing: Before you show anyone those hundreds of holiday photos or the 2 hour
       slide show, edit your work. Take out all the doubles, all the duds, the out of focus and
       generally crap. Only show people the good stuff and your standing as a photographer
         immediately increases. Pro's can shoot a load of rubbish like anyone else; they just
                                     don't show it to anybody.

There are 3 basic ways to arrange the elements within your composition.

      Physically move objects relative to each other. Only really works with still life
      Tell people to move relative to each other or other objects. Only works with
       people who can hear you.
      Move ! Usually the most effective way to control your composition is to alter
       your viewpoint.

That last one is probably the easiest and yet most important. How often have you
thought 'that would make a great picture' then put your camera to your eye and taken a
photograph. Loads of times, you see people do it all the time. By all means do that but
right after doing it take a wander about and see if you can improve on your original
composition by changing your viewpoint. You may be surprised how much difference
walking a few metres can make.
Fill the frame.
Sometimes your mind tends to exaggerate what you see through the
viewfinder of your camera. You often perceive things a bit bigger than they
actually are and you also tend not to notice 'slight' distractions. What you end
up with is photographs with huge areas of wasted space around the edge and
people with things growing out of their heads. Make sure your subject fills the
frame. The best way to do this is to move a bit closer. Before you press that
shutter release have a quick look round the edge of the frame and behind
your subject. Make sure that you don't have acres of space full of nothing
interesting and check for 'stuff' intruding into your masterpiece. In our
wonderful 3 dimensional world that telegraph pole is away in the background;
in your flat 2 dimensional photograph that same pole is sticking out of
Next we will go on to some techniques you can use to help compose your
photographs. I may even splash out on a few illustrations.

                           The Rule of Thirds.

Using the steps outlined previously will help to tighten up your composition.
Now we will look at a few techniques you can employ to help improve your
composition. If you are taking photographs for your own pleasure, as I
assume you are, then you only have to come up with pictures that please you.
You may be able to overlook the huge empty spaces or people with their
heads cut off but no-one else will. That cute kid looks really cute it's just a pity
that you need a magnifying glass to see him. Producing pictures that are
pleasing to someone other than yourself will make your photography much
more rewarding.
                 The Rule of Thirds.
                 One of the most popular 'rules' in photography is the Rule Of
                 Thirds. It is also popular amongst artists. It works like this:
                 Imaginary lines are drawn dividing the image into thirds both
                 horizontally and vertically. You place important elements of
                 your composition where these lines intersect. I've even made
a little diagram for you (fig 1).

As well as using the intersections you can arrange areas into bands
occupying a third or place things along the imaginary lines. As you can see it
is fairly simple to implement. Good places to put things; third of the way up,
third of the way in from the left , you get the idea. Duff places to put things;
right in the middle, right at the top, right at the bottom, away in the corner.

Using the Rule of Thirds helps produce nicely balanced easy on the eye
pictures. Also, as you have to position things relative to the edges of the
frame it helps get rid of ' tiny subject surrounded by vast empty space'
One last thing about the Rule of Thirds for the time being. Once you have got
the hang of the Rule of Thirds you will very quickly want to break it ! This is
fine. As I said earlier these 'rules' are best used as guidelines and if you can
create a better image by bending or ignoring rules then fire away.

The Rule of Thirds is fairly structured but there are a great many methods you
can employ which rely on your ability to 'see' things and incorporate them into
your composition. Next up we will look at some, but by no means all, of them.
By Janet Wood
Have you ever taken a roll of film, got your pictures back from the lab and
wondered why on earth you bothered? Yet at the time they appeared okay; the
colour, lighting, setting, all inspiring you to snap away happily.
The problem is what we record on film is often not what we admire in a
composition, but a representation of a number of factors. By this I mean, our
eyes scan what we are looking at, the brain digests the information, separates
the parts that interest us and tells us this is pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately,
what can happen is when we lift the camera we immediately ignore what we have
just discovered and click away without a second thought. All too often we try to
fit too much information into our pictures, not wanting to waste any of what we
can see. This usually results in photographs that can either be too messy, too
distant, sadly lacking in subject, or just downright boring! When ideally what we
should have done was concentrate on the bits that caught our attention in the
first place and photograph them to their best advantage. Naturally, this usually
takes some thought, experimentation and time. But the results are far more
pleasing and well worth the effort.

This is a photo of a cat. However, you
may be forgiven for not noticing, given all
the surrounding clutter.

                                              Here I have concentrated on the cat
                                              and it makes for a far better

Closing in on part of a subject can help.
                                              It can give a photo a sense of
                                              power and presence.
                                               Make use of props.

Look for the unusual.

Before starting to photograph I ask myself several questions which usually
include the following;
Which orientation will suit the subject best - Landscape / Portrait.
And which lens is the best to use? E.g. Standard, Wide, Telephoto, Zoom, etc
What type of film will suit the subject best? E.g. Colour, black and white.
Will altering my position help? E.g. A shot from above, below etc?
Are there any intricate patterns to draw the attention?
Can I make use of any natural lines to lead the viewer into the picture?
Can I frame the photograph with something interesting?
Will the use of a foreground object add impact?
Will walking around the subject offer more interesting views?
Will moving in closer cut out unnecessary clutter?
If I fill the frame will it give a feeling of presence, action, power etc?
Will isolating interesting parts of the subject help?
Will the use of props help?
Can I make use of different lighting effects?
Would the use of a filter add to the overall effect. E.g. Soft focus, colour, warm
Can I use my 'depth of field' to effect. E.g. To blot out unwanted background

                                         Whilst a wide angled lens can add drama
                                         to a suitable subject.

A zoom /telephoto lens can add
compression to a photograph.

                                         Here the bridge and road lead the viewer
                                         into the picture.
The dramatic peak helps to catch
the viewer's attention.

Use whatever makes the subject            Use black and white film besides colour.

It’s surprising how just a simple change in angle/position can offer you so much
more in your photograph. Picking up things you hadn’t noticed previously. For
example, reflections, different surfaces, textures, colours.
So next time you feel in the creative mood remember; bend, crouch, lie down,
look up, climb, fill space, view all around, frame it, get closer, isolate, lead in and
consider using filters.

                                     Looking up.
Looking down on a subject                                            Looking up.

                                     Try varying your lighting
Use surrounding features to                                          If possible, shoot
frame a subject.                                                     at different times
                                                                     of the day.
Place your subjects in different
positions other than the
standard poses.

                                     Look for unusual detail
                                     and concentrate on that

Try as many different aspects and techniques as reasonably possible until you
find the one that compliments the subject the best, even consider what time of
day/night will best suit a subject. And, if you’re still not happy, then perhaps it
wasn’t worth photographing in the first place and you should call it a day.
                                   Happy shooting!
                   Techniques 2 - Composition

This page simply contains a few tips about composition in typical naturist
settings. Composition is a huge topic and needs discussion with examples
and differing points of view. Although all rules are made to be broken, there
are some general rules which are worthy of note.
And try this - don't look through the viewfinder, look at it. Then you will see a
picture, not the scene.


      The subject often looks better placed off-centre in the frame. Putting
       the horizon or a person a third of the way across or up the pictures is
       generally more pleasing than dead centre. NOTE - for auto-focus
       cameras where the focus area is in the centre of the viewfinder, focus
       first, lock this focus and then recompose the picture (consult the
       manual for instructions on how this works for your camera).
      Avoid clutter in the background. Firstly choose your position to avoid
       clutter. Then scan the edge of the picture for intruding objects,
       especially bright ones; they will be very obvious in the finished photo.
       Then wait for the right moment. If people are walking about the beach,
       wait for the background people to be clear, or at least not 'touching'
       your subject.
      Have people looking into the picture rather than out. This is more
       pleasing on the eye.
      Make sure that you get people's eyes sharp. Focusing on the eyes is
       the most important area - it is where we first look. Try also asking the
       subject to tilt the head slightly.
      If you can control aperture, use a large aperture on portraits to throw
       backgrounds out of focus. This makes the background less intrusive
       and helps the subject stand out more.
      Shoot at eye level where you can, especially with children.
     If you can talk to your subject, find out the things they like and don't like
      about themselves. For example, if the person doesn't like his short
      legs, then you might find a view angle which makes them appear
      longer. Even naturists like to show their best side!

General Scenes

     General scenes are part of everyone's photo album. Think about what
      it is about the scene that you want to convey. Is it the vast space and
      emptiness (like Playa Sotavento in Fuerteventura) or the shoulder-to-
      shoulder crowds (Studland on a hot August Bank Holiday) ? A wider
      angled lens or zoom setting might set off the first better. A carefully
      positioned telephoto would compress the distance and the heat making
      the second look even more busy.
     Use light and lines carefully in landscapes. Try shooting early or late in
      the day when the light is low. Find natural objects and lines to lead the
      eye naturally through the picture space.
     Use objects like people and trees for balance and scale.

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