Photography is more than just pointing and shooting – it’s about telling a story and creating visually appealing images. To unlock the full potential of your photography, you need to understand and use compositional tools. These tools are like brushes for a painter or notes for a musician – they help you craft beautiful and meaningful photographs. In this guide for beginner photographers, we’ll explore three fundamental compositional tools: the Rule of Thirds, Framing, and Symmetry.
The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is one of the simplest yet most effective compositional tools. Imagine dividing your photo into a tic-tac-toe grid with two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. This creates nine equal parts in your frame. The idea is to position your main subject or key elements along these lines or at their intersections. This technique adds balance and visual interest to your photos and here are a few ideas on how you can apply it to your photos:
Horizon Placement: In landscape photography, place the horizon along the upper or lower horizontal line, depending on whether the sky or foreground is more captivating. Avoid centering the horizon, as it can make the image feel static.
Subject Placement: When photographing people, animals, or objects, position them along one of the vertical lines or at the intersection points. This draws attention to the subject and allows viewers to explore the frame naturally.
Balancing Elements: If your photo contains multiple elements, distribute them along the grid lines to create harmony. For example, in a cityscape, align tall buildings with the vertical lines while keeping other elements within the remaining segments. For guidance on the Rule of Thirds, read this article by Marc Schenker, who discusses tips on how to arrange a photo using this composition tool.
Adding Depth and Focus with Framing
Framing is a compositional tool that involves using elements within your photo to create a frame around your subject. This not only adds depth to your image but also directs the viewer’s attention to the main subject. Think of it as a visual pathway that guides the eyes to where you want them to go. Here are a few ways you can use frames in your photos:
Natural Frames: Look for natural elements like archways, doorways, or trees with overhanging branches that can serve as frames for your subject. Position your subject within this frame to emphasize it.
Foreground Elements: Incorporate foreground elements like flowers, grass, or objects to create a sense of depth. These elements not only frame your subject but also add context to the scene.
Experiment: Don’t limit yourself to traditional frames. Experiment with creative framing by using reflections, shadows, or even people as framing devices. Unconventional framing can yield captivating results. Photographer Tobie Schalkwyk wrote this helpful guide on subject framing and shares his professional knowledge on how to implement framing in your photos.
Finding Beauty in Balance and Symmetry
Symmetry is all about balance and harmony in your photos. It involves creating images where elements on one side of the frame mirror those on the other. Symmetrical compositions often exude a sense of tranquility and order. To achieve symmetry in your shots, try these ideas:
Architectural Symmetry: Buildings, bridges, and architectural structures often offer perfect symmetry. Position yourself at the center and compose your shot so that the symmetrical elements are balanced on either side.
Natural Symmetry: In nature, symmetry can be found in reflections on water surfaces, leaf patterns, or even the wings of butterflies. Seek out these natural occurrences and use them as your subjects. This educational piece by Jo Plumridge on symmetry will give you tips on experimenting with symmetry and why it can be important in your photos.
Radial Symmetry: This type of symmetry involves elements radiating outward from a central point. It’s common in objects like flowers or starbursts. Center your subject and capture the radial patterns. If you want to create radial compositions that are fun, check out this article here.
Mastering these compositional tools – the Rule of Thirds, Framing, and Symmetry – are three crucial steps for beginning photography. They provide you with the creative foundation to capture more engaging and visually striking images. Remember that photography is an art, and like any art form, practice is key to improvement. For more tips on composition and the tools we can use, check out this article that shares 10 tips to instantly improve your composition when taking photos.
For further resources, check out our friends over at Photzy and their Creative Composition Guided Resource Kit Volume 1. This kit offers a guided video walkthrough, along with three hands-on exercises and assignments for you to experiment with. It’s packed with valuable content, including videos, project sheets, printable cheat sheets, creativity prompts, and plenty more. Dive into Creative Composition Guided Resource Kit Volume 1, and discover the keys to creating captivating and visually stunning images here.