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Knowhow No. 21

kitten staring out of window

There are several simple techniques that professional photographers use to frame the perfect shot.

 

Photo composition tips

The Knowhow

The Rule of Thirds:

Many photographers use the Rule of Thirds to construct shots. When framing up, they imagine a grid over the scene.

  • The lines often break the image into equal sized squares
  • Both horizontal and / or vertical lines should always be the same distance from the edge of the frame
  • The lines indicate where the major features of your image should be
  • Try to position key elements of the image where the lines cross

kitten staring out of window

In the image above, you can see how elements of the composition are lined up with the grid:

  • The left line passes through the centre of the kitten
  • The bottom line separates the floor from the door
  • The upper line passes through the paw and marks the edge of the glass
  • The right line follows on of the door edges and crosses the end of the tail

Remember: the lines are a guide, not a law. Using this system can help you align elements of your photograph for better composition, but your eyes will tell you what looks best.

This method can also be used to frame a subject centrally, giving them a more powerful presence. For example, composing a shot so a face or an object is the central portion of the image gives it more emphasis and can produce interesting artistic effects.

  • Using the rule of thirds to mark the edges, or key points, of the object enhances it
  • Surrounding the key object with the inner box of the grid can make it stand out, but runs the risk of reducing the subject's impact as it appears smaller

For example, when framing a face this way you may choose to position the eyes and mouth on the imaginary grid.

Headroom:

One common mistake many people make is framing far too much headroom. This is often done in an attempt to make someone's head be at the centre of the shot, rather than the full face.

For example, there is too much headroom in this shot:

  • You only need to leave a very small space between the top of the head and the top of the frame. Sometimes you may even trim off the top of the head
  • Position more space to the left or right of frame to match the subject's eyeline

Here is the same image, cropped according to the rule of thirds:

 

Leading lines:

There are a number of effective ways to draw the viewer's eye into the photograph and make it more visually appealing. A simple method is to use leading lines which add depth and create visual paths the eye can follow.

Leading lines start at the edge of the frame and move towards the middle of the photo. Used effectively, the eye "reads" along these lines like text in a book and follows their journey through the picture.

For example, in the image above the tracks in the snow curve through the picture and around the houses to add interest. Notice the photo is also composed to the rule of thirds.

 

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