The process of arranging the elements of a shot in the best possible way so as to bring out your creative vision, is composition. The rules of composition help in framing your shot for maximum optical aesthetics. The seven most important elements of photography are Line,Shape,Form,Texture,Pattern,Color and Space. Photographers play around with these basic elements to make their images more visually appealing. In order to know what works and what doesn’t for you as a photographer, it is important to know the basics of composition. Here is a list of five basic composition techniques that photographers have followed over the ages to get visually appealing images.
The Rule of Thirds
Imagine your image divided into nine equal parts by two vertical and two horizontal lines crisscrossing at right angles. Some cameras will even give you this as a visual grid in your viewfinder to work with. The idea is to place your subject or your compositional element along these lines or at any of the intersecting points. The rule of Thirds has been used by artists, especially painters, since ages. The reason it works is because if you place your subject exactly at the centre, then your centre of attention becomes static. If you place your subject close to the edges then your viewers eye has space to move around and it makes the person linger a bit to follow the path. The points of intersection are the focal points. Placing your subject over there makes your photos more visually appealing.
The rule of Dynamic Symmetry
There is another way to place your image for better visual appeal. Draw a line (hypothetical) from one corner of your image to another. Then draw a second line perpendicular to the base line and place your subject at the point of intersection. In dynamic symmetry, the compositional lines express motion. It is not necessary that your subject has to be in motion, but this particular compositional technique is better used for expressing motion.
leading lines are the easiest but most underutilised technique in composition. When you are composing an image, look around for natural lines like pathways or trees lined up or a road naturally leading the eye to specific parts of the image. Often leading lines start in the foreground and lead to the background, creating a very dynamic effect. Apart from directing your viewers eye to the subject, leading lines are also often used to bring depth to an image.
framing your shot gives depth and context to your subject. It immediately brings your subject into focus, by drawing attention to it. Framing your shot automatically puts your subject in the foreground. Some photographers also believe that a frame restricts the viewer eyes from moving outside the shot by providing a natural barrier. The most natural frames are provided by environmental and architectural elements. You can also shoot through overhanging branches or between silhouettes to provide a natural frame to your subjects.
Perhaps the best compositional technique to create a perfect image, Symmetry is greatly used by photographers to create balance in an image. Symmetry is when you use a hypothetical line to divide your image into two halves, with one side exactly mirroring the other. When you use a symmetrical composition, your subject has to be at the dead center. So there is not much space left for the eye to move. And hence the attention is focused on the subject.
That being said, it is always good to remember that there are no fixed rules in photography and that an exception always proves the rule. The key to a great image mostly lies in your composition technique. You might not be able to apply all the rules all the time. You have to understand which rule to apply in which situation and what works in a particular situation may not really be ideal for another. So the best way to understand these rules is to practice them in your shots. You will learn to automatically apply these rules when you spot your subject. And yes, it is essential that you master the rules first before you decide to break them.