Composition is the way in which a photographer or filmmaker arranges a shot to make it intriguing to the viewer. A good shot is a combination of several elements composed in a way to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
It’s almost impossible to create a photo that will please absolutely everybody. Yet there are several techniques out there that can help you get the best out of your photos. The eye usually delights in symmetry, patterns, and balance. To achieve this, position the elements in your photo in a way that responds to these three aspects.
It’s the creative mind that guides the viewer’s eye thanks to the image’s composition, an essential building block in photography. This notion, which is also present in other disciplines of art, allows the image to purposely direct the viewer’s gaze to where it should be.
This may sound rather complicated, but there are 3 simple tricks that can help give your photos and videos a more professional feel. Let’s check them out.
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1. Frame within a frame
This trick allows you to take advantage of shots containing natural frames. It’s simply a case of using doorways, mirrors, windows, and the like to make people or objects stand out. Take a look at this example:
In this scene from Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003), Bill Murray stands out thanks to his considerable height compared to the other characters and by the way the gray square on the elevator wall frames him. This is a good example of how you can arrange the shot with elements in the scene.
Let’s take a look at another shot:
This scene from Drive is a perfect example of the frame within a frame composition technique. Carey Mulligan is in the foreground in the camera’s natural frame, while Ryan Gosling’s reflection can be seen in the mirror in the background. What’s more, the director has placed a photo in the mirror to provide a further element of intrigue.
Now imagine a scene where both characters are in front of the camera and the photo is placed on a coffee table between them. This would create a different feel, right? It wouldn’t necessarily be better or worse, just different. This is what good composition can do. 🙂
2. Leading lines
As we know, the visuals in film and photography have their basis in painting. Leading lines originally come from the Renaissance vanishing point, which allowed proportions to be represented more realistically in paintings. As well as this, the vanishing point provides the scene with a depth of field and guides the viewer’s gaze.
The School of Athens (1509-1510), by the Renaissance painter Raphael, is a good example:
The leading lines are influenced by the architectural elements, as well as the bodies of the characters and certain objects. The protagonists of the scene are in the center of the composition and the rest of the painting radiates from them. This is where the artist wants us to direct our gaze.
So how do we translate this ancient wisdom into our photos or videos? Well, let’s check out some slightly more contemporary examples:
As you can see, there are plenty of leading lines all around you that can be included in your photos and videos. Watching movies and looking at photos will help to develop your creativity and use these clever lines in very inventive ways.
3. Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a composition guideline in photography. Take any image and divide it into 9 segments using 3 vertical and 3 horizontal lines.
The rule of thirds suggests placing key elements at any of the points where these lines intersect.
You can put the rule of thirds into practice with the well-known grid on today’s cameras.
Let’s take a look at some more examples from Drive (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!) by director Nicolas Winding Refn. Note how the director composes the image as per the rule of thirds in these two instances:
As you can see, you can use one or more points at the same time. These examples are very easy to analyze because they have a single subject in the shot and you can clearly see how the composition responds to the rule of thirds. However, you can use this rule in anything: landscape photos or videos, shots with lots of people, street photography... for whatever you want really!
As I mentioned, these composition tricks for your photos and videos are based on what satisfies your eye the most. In fact, it’s biologically proven that composing images with these techniques will produce results that are more pleasing to the eye.
Remember that it’s always better to have a solid grounding of the basics, then experiment with what you’ve learnt. Don’t forget that creativity also thrives on breaking the rules, so feel free to get funky!