Most people, when they take a photograph, point the camera and press click on the shutter. However, the best photographers pay attention to composition to achieve results. Composition is something every photographer, from the most basic to the advanced professional, can incorporate into their photography.
The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is perhaps the most elemental concept of composition. If you look at a photograph, or you are getting ready to shoot something, the simplest way to apply this concept is to mentally superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid over the scene. Where the lines intersect is where you want to put objects in your photograph.
For instance, consider a simple portrait. Many people mistakenly assume that they should put the person in the center of the photograph. However, this often leads to boring shots. It is better to offset the person in the image, and using the Rule of Thirds can help you place the subject. Try framing the subject so she is in the upper right hand third of the photograph, or someplace other than dead-center, and see how it can bring the photograph alive.
This can apply to any type of photography, from a sports shot to a landscape. If you are shooting a sunset, don’t put the sun in the middle; put it off center, perhaps up in the low part of the grid if you want to highlight the sky or the high part of the image if you want to highlight the foreground to create a more dramatic shot.
Leading lines are things in the photograph that lead the eye towards the subject of the photography. Leading lines can dramatically increase the quality of landscape and wildlife shots. Leading lines can be things like a mountain ridge, a road, or even footsteps that direct the eye towards a spot in the photograph.
For instance, while shooting concerts, try to use the guitar or the microphone stand as a leading line. While shooting hockey, use the player’s stick as a leading line to direct the eye to the player.
Combining the two
Let’s consider an outdoor shot and see how you can use leading lines and the rule of thirds to achieve a dramatic shot. Let’s say you are out hiking and want to frame the person you are with to create a memorable shot. If you are on a trail, you can put the person one side in the upper part of part of the image and back up so that the trail in the foreground leads towards the person. If you are above treeline, you can create a dramatic scene by having someone pose near the ridgeline up high and have the ridgeline leading towards the person.
Above all, experiment with your photographs. Don’t keep taking the same boring shots over and over; consider these rules of composition and soon people will be exclaiming over all your shots from your “once in a lifetime” trip.