What is Composition and Why is it Important?

Once you’ve metered the shot, determined the right combination of shutter speed & aperture, you then create the composition.

The term “create” is intentional. My own philosophy when capturing a photo is not to focus on a subject, but to focus on the image. The image includes the background elements that complement the subject in focus. And it’s these elements that you arrange to create a composition.

When photographing a flower, for example, you can photograph it straight on, which could be fine. But, maybe it’s a brightly colored flower, or has unique texture. And maybe with a little moving around on your part you can compose the shot so that the flower is arranged with a darker background behind it, which may show-off the colors and/or textures a bit more.

Take a look at this example. Notice the background? The unique texture could have been simply captured, but with a little movement, the texture was captured with the darker background behind it. Imagine I lowered my position; the flower would be elevated with respect to the background, and the highlights that surround the flower would then be direclty behind it, instead of above and to the sides as it is currently shown.

There’s another thing going on, here, which helps the photo’s impact: The rule of thirds. Like most rules, it doesn’t always have to be obeyed, but it’s nonetheless an important and useful rule.

The rule of thirds is very basic. Break the frame up by thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Strong images tend to have elements in line with the thirds, rather than direclty in the center. The reason is that a strong composition will allow the viewer’s eyes to be lead through the shot. The shot above could have simply been shot with the subject at the center. This locks the eyes, though. Shot as it was, the eyes can first see the flowers, then wander through the rest of the image.

Have a look at the image at right. The strongest horizontal elements are relatively in line with the thirds (there is literally no need to be exact – the rule is more a “guide”), while the splash is in line with the right vertical third. The eye is lead through the image, from left to right.

It’s nearly always preferable to capture an image in such a way that you don’t lock the viewer’s eyes in one area of the image. Not always; rules don’t always have to be followed.

Composing a photo well isn’t always easy. There are approximately 5.43 Gazillion ways to create a composition, thereabouts. This isn’t daunting – it sets your creativity free.

If you nail the light, the focus, the composition, etc., then you’re set, right? Well, to further refine the image, enter accessories…

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