Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Secret of Composition (hint: it goes beyond the rule of thirds...)

Composition – my secret is...

Balance and paying attention to the background – this will take you further than just rules...
Many people don’t realize how important the background is to a picture. It can make your picture great, it can ruin the photo, it can cause distraction from the focus, or it can create the frame in which you focus your subject.

My brother,  +Jason Davis, pointed out to me how much he loves how I use the background of my pictures. Although it’s not an accident, the background of my picture is usually in the background of my mind as well – as I look through my lens, the world becomes one with me, and I wait, adjust, zoom, and focus until the frame ‘looks right.’

If you are stuck with a background that is ugly, focus in tightly on your subject, and open up your aperture (smaller number). If you are not sure what aperture is, click here for further explanation from +Darren Rowse at Digital Photography School .

Sometimes, I have found my subject’s clothing does not go with the background in the shot – and since 95% of my photos are outdoors in natural light, I don’t always have the option of changing what’s behind my subject in the picture. If the clothing/outfit is fighting with the background, I always go with Black & White. I will go further into black and white photography in a future blog, but I use it for 4 main purposes: 1. I like b & w, 2. In order to highlight amazing contrast in shadows, 3. If I have multiple subjects with too many different colors, and 4. If the background or color balance is just not working.

Most photographers and artists are familiar with the ruleof thirds – although I use it quite frequently, it’s not the only composition formula I follow. My second favorite is the golden spiral, then  the golden triangle.

Composition Fail:
stop sign,  cars,
tree apparently growing
from +Nevin Culley's head

When shooting, I try to pay attention to the background to avoid these common mistakes:

Distractions – a pole coming from behind someone’s head, a tree in a funny place, signs, cars, trash cans, etc.

Putting my subject in the center of the picture – this seems easy, but when shooting action, sometimes that is where my camera wants to focus (I use auto for quickly moving subjects such as my son playing baseball). Another time I see people putting the subject directly in the middle is when there is a stunning background and a great subject – but the problem is, there is no place for the eye to go if your subject is directly in the middle.

top: subject in center
Bottom: subject using rule of thirds

One trick for using my backgrounds: creating a frame for my subject that is enough to enhance the main focus without dominating it.

In this picture, I used the trees to frame the couple...

That’s my take on composition –
~Capturing The Moment~

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