Composition in photography can have many origins.  You can take a pretty concrete subject and place it in an interesting environment.  The Rule of Thirds is one that is often used when creating photographic compositions.  Other times, the way that lines or curves within a scene are the compelling factor.  Architectural images use the idea of linear direction to compell the viewer.  Finally, the nature of light can also be a huge factor when composing an image.  After all, when looking at the word “photography”, it’s pretty clear how integral light can be to capturing your vision.  The Greek root “photos” literally means “light” (while “graphos” means to draw or paint – so photography really could be pretty succinctly defined as “painting with light”.)

So, we have three elements that can contribute to image composition:

  • Positioning your subject
  • Directing viewer via leading lines
  • Compelling the viewer via light

While there are no hard and fast rules in any form of artistic expression, these are three fundamentals that I try to keep in mind when capturing the world around me.  Sometimes I’ll find my images successfully utilizes only one of these elements.  Naturally, there are also times where two are executed well.  Naturally, I am luckiest though, is when all three are effectively brought into an image.

Here’s an example of what I am talking about.  Can you identify which elements of image composition are present?  Is there a defined subject that is well positioned?  What about compelling lines to define the image?  Finally, is there anything that draws your eye from the light or shadows?  Sound off in the comments, and let me know:

Brick Circle
Brick Circle

4 thoughts on “Defining Your Image Composition

  1. Composition is harder for me than all the technical stuff. I am an engineer by training and by nature, so right brained stuff is easier. The artistic side of photography is more of a challenge. The thing about photography that not all mediums of art have is the ability to appeal to both kinds of people, artistic and technical. I was drawn in by the technical but found that I really enjoy learning about the art as much as the science.

    Composition is key. When I am able to get a really great photo I ask myself, “what about this photo is great, why am I drawn to it?”. If you can answer that, you can repeat it in the future. If you cannot, than you are a point and shooter that got lucky.

  2. Some good bits:
    * No tangents. The circle doesn’t touch the square.
    * Color: The item of main focus — the crick circle — has a unique color in the pic.
    * Contrast: Similar to the previous one, but emphasized for being pretty much the only color bit in an otherwise black and white picture.
    * Angle: Shot straight on, the brick circle might look plain. By taking a slight angle (looking slightly up and to the right ) you add variety and interest.
    * Repetition: The bricks repeat themselves, as nature often repeats itself.

    That’s a good start. =) Nice pic!

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