Stokley's February Photo Tip


By Stokley Wilson

This month we’ll talk about composition. Composition is the technique used to arrange or compose the subject in the frame or viewfinder. Most of us start out taking photographs with the classic TV composition, subject placed directly in the center of the frame, just like we see on TV. But as we soon learn, this is not the most pleasing to our eye. One of the reasons for this is the 35mm frame has a much wider aspect ratio (height vs. width), than a TV. With more of a rectangle, we need to compose our subjects to suit this particular format. Place the rectangle how your subject is arranged. When photographing a tall skyscraper, hold your camera vertically. When photographing a ranch style house, shoot a horizontal.

The general rule of composition is the rule of thirds. This refers to composing the strong subject element in the 1/3 part of the frame that suits the image. To visualize this, draw out the rectangle of the frame on a piece of paper. Then draw dotted lines along both the vertical and horizontal axis.

This splits the scene into thirds. When composing, place the subject in the area of thirds to produce the most pleasing framing. Horizontal subjects will use the horizontal dotted lines; vertical subjects use the vertical lines.

Sometimes, you may find that you’re not sure where to place your subject in the frame. What I like to do in this instance is to place the subject in the intersections of the dotted lines, trying different placements at those intersections. These intersections are referred to as the hot spots of composition. Looking at each different composition, I can usually tell which one is the most flattering. If you still can’t decide, shoot a variety of different compositions, then decide after looking at the final product, a print or slide.

Another good tip, if you’re composing a subject that is looking in to a part of the scene, place the subject looking into the empty part of the scene. Don’t place the subject so that it’s looking at the edge of the photograph or frame.

The last tip I have is this, don’t follow the rules like the photo police will arrest you for a bad pic. Go ahead, break the rules, try something different. You are the one who decides. You are the artist.

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