Beyond The Rules Of Composition

Composition is one of the crucial elements of photography. No matter how expensive and high-tech camera you have, it is ultimately the way you compose the photos that wins the hearts. In short, composition makes or breaks the photograph. If your images lack the “strong underlying structure” called the composition, they will well lack the viewer’s gaze.

Photography masters and experts have suggested  several rules and guidelines for composing interesting frames and rule of thirds, golden ratio, leading lines, natural frames, symmetry, balance, rhythm, etc are some of the most significant ones. And while following these guidelines, photographers have come across various other interesting techniques and thought provoking actions for breaking the rules of photography.

This reminds of quite an impressive rule of thirds by Trey Ratcliff which says The top third of your photo should be interesting. The middle third of your photo should be interesting. The bottom third of your photo should be interesting. And so it is written.

And here are few more pearls of wisdom learned by photographers (and me) over the time.

Throw The Frame Out Of Focus

Including natural frames adds a visual story to the image. How about playing around natural frames? Instead of getting everything in focus, i.e. the frame and the subject, try to partially blur the frame. This will effectively lead the viewers eye towards the area of interest in the photograph that too without the distractions caused by the frame. And one more thing, composing the frame in such a way leaves the space for viewers to imagine ‘Alice in the Wonderland’.

Follow The Gaze [With Empty Space]

When shooting people looking in a particular direction, leave some empty space in the direction they are looking. This generates curiosity among the viewers and directs the viewer’s eye into the frame. However, leaving the empty space behind the subject, makes space for more of a guesswork.

So, as a rule of thumb, when shooting moving objects or walking people, leave empty space in the direction the gaze of the subject follows. BTW how does it look when you photograph the subject moving out of the frame (as in the image below)?

Look At The World With A Different Eye

Your perspective is all that makes the difference. It is just like unique ideas that sell well. So don’t restrict yourself to shooting at eye level. Get down on your knees or try the hipster shots. Photograph by varying the angle of view and you will definitely come out with some interesting shots — shoot from behind a person’s head, shoulder, from between stretching legs or over hanging branches and the likes.

Let The Lines Meet Or Vanish

Lines draw the viewer’s attention towards the center of interest. But don’t let them act as a distraction. Follow the lines and let the lines meet at the destination. It gives the sense of accomplishment. For instance, when capturing rivers or roads longitudinally, vanish the lines into the corners, this makes for a strong composition and a perfect finish to the photograph. However this advice is not for vertical lines like buildings — converging lines in this case look more of a mistake.

Add Depth To The Scene

Photographs look dull, boring and mundane unless they have the third dimension that makes the photograph more interesting. Playing around with the depth of field, experiment with various light effects and add your perspective to give your images a more realistic aspect — the three dimensional aspect.

Photograph Incompleteness

Capturing just the reflections without the subject in the scene or framing just the pollen grains — photographing incompleteness in this sense makes complete sense for abstract photography. If you are bored of giving visual definitions to the objects around you, it’s time to shoot the details without worrying about covering the entirety.

Break The Rules!

This is not the last resort though, but many a times breaking the rules is all you have to do — not only for interesting captures but also for winning over the creative rut. For instance, one of the compositional guidelines suggest not to place the subject in dead center. It makes up for a boring composition. But at times placing the subject in the center works wonders. So first learn the rules and then try to break them often. After all rules are meant to be broken :)

Are you still following the traditional rules of composition? Feel free to share new ideas, experiments and composing techniques with us.

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