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CREATIVE

ENDEAVORS

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS
part 1

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

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Introduction

Composition refers to how all elements are arranged in an


image. An image that has a sense of balance and order and

Position and Perspective

It is important to consider where you position yourself when planning your shot. Your distance from

Declutter and Simplify

Generally speaking, the eye prefers simplicity. Once you have


decided what it is you are shooting and

Filling the Frame

Decide what is most important about your composition and


ensure that this aspect is proportionately

The Background

Background can help with filling the frame provided the


elements included contribute to the impact of

The Foreground

Another compositional technique for creating a more interesting


image is to move the subject back and include

Using Empty Space

In contrast to filling the frame, empty space can at times be used


to enhance the composition of an

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CREATIVE
ENDEAVORS

COMPOSITION

BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Position and Perspective

It is important to consider where you position yourself when planning your shot.
Your distance from your subject, the amount of background or sky you include relative to your subject of interest, where you position your subject in the frameall will
affect the nal image. Move around: Get up high and down low and take sample
shots until you can nd that optimal spot with a balance of foreground and background elements.

In this photo, despite setting up at precisely the right moment to capture the
suns red glow on the mountaintops,
Pavel has also carefully positioned himself far enough away from the mountains to also incorporate the purple

flowers in the foreground. By tilting the


camera, he has been able to include
foreground detail so that we almost
discover the main subject as a surprising afterthought.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Introduction
Composition refers to how all elements are arranged in an image. An image that has
a sense of balance and order and hierarchy in terms of what is being viewed will
appear less chaotic and more pleasing to the viewer. Achieving such a pleasing and
impactful image is not an accident and can be improved upon by adhering to a few
basic rules of good composition. Rather than rules actually, it may be best to consider them opportunities: Opportunities that are there to enrich your creativity and to
guide your decision making.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

The perspective you choose for your


image will impact its mood and its interpretation. Shooting from above can
make the object appear smaller or less
important, while shooting from below
will exaggerate its size and importance.
In addition to shootingfrom high or low,
it is also possible to influence the perception of a subject based on distance:
Whether you are near or far from the
subject.

Here, instead of focusing on the river


and the scene behind, Phil has crouched
down low, probably getting his feet wet,
and brought our attention to the foreground rocks. Once again the viewer is
rst presented with the foreground and
the subject matter (the flowing river)
comes as a happy surprise.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Declutter and Simplify

Generally speaking, the eye prefers simplicity. Once you have decided what it is you
are shooting and from where, it is a good idea to set up your tripod. Using a tripod
will slow your planning process allowing you to really think about the image you are
creating. Now you can zoom in and out, experiment with lters, try multiple exposures see how best you can make your subject the center of attention in the frame.
Textures, patterns and silhouettes make for simple yet impactful images.

In this shot, by zooming in and eliminating extraneous background elements,


Phil has reduced a complex city scene
full of colour, textures and shapes down
to a striking, geometric arrangement of
monochromatic shapes and tones.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Sometimes it helps to reduce any distracting clutter that will take away from the
impact of the image you are creating. Any additional objects in the frame should
either be background or included as part of the story. If something is included in your
frame that does not add to the impact of the image it is best to reposition yourself
or zoom in to remove it; or try a wider aperture to blur it out; or plan to crop it out in
post processing.

In this shot, by reducing the busy-ness


of a port scene down to only a few
elements, Phil has created a story that
speaks only of a ships cat. By eliminating all but the chains, the chains
become important in providing context
for this maritime story.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Filling the Frame

Decide what is most important about your composition and ensure that this aspect
is proportionately represented relative to other less signicant elements. Zooming in
on the subject allows you to eliminate unnecessary background, but will also flatten
the perspective of the shot.

Here, we feel that the young child is


looking at her more important grandmother. Evo pulls our attention to the
relationship between the child and the
old woman by eliminating all distracting

background. In addition, he has reduced


the depth of eld, leaving the child
slightly out of focus and xing our attention on the signicance of the old lady.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Alternatively, try physically moving in closer to your subject and see what sort of
interesting perspectives you nd. Leaving too much empty space in your scene can
make your subject appear smaller or less important than you intended it to be and
can confuse the viewer as to what they are supposed to be focusing on.
Here, by moving in closer, Phil has reduced a complex, moss-covered, lava eld to a
mere green backdrop for a clump of coloured leaves. As a result, a seemingly insignicant detail now becomes the main focus of the shot.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Background can help with lling the frame provided the elements included contribute to the impact of the nal image. Avoid the tendency to become so absorbed in
your subject that you neglect what is happening behind. Instead, take a moment to
examine what is in the background and ensure that nothing included in the frame
will in anyway detract from your composition.
The Background

Here, having climbed high enough to get


the entire lake in view, Pavel has included low lying cloud and the rising sun to
add additional background elements to

the scene. These added elements,


colour and clouds, add contrasting
drama to an otherwise tranquil lake
scene.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

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Sometimes it is necessary to eliminate unwanted or distracting background


elements. If elements in the background dont enhance your image then the challenge is to change your angle or zoom in so that distracting elements are cut out; or
widen the aperture so that they become blurred.

Here Evo has very cleverly drawn the


viewers attention to a single gure. By
carefully reducing the depth of eld
(large aperture/small F-stop), he has
blurred out both background and foreground, framing a single young man one
third of the way into the composition.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

11

The Foreground

Another compositional technique for creating a more interesting image is to move


the subject back and include an interesting foreground element to hook the viewers
attention and draw his eye to your focal point.

Here Pavel has walked down the hill a


little, allowing him to include the colouful flowers as the rst element the
viewer sees. Although less important
than the house, placing the flowers in
the foreground makes them seem more
signicant and the main subject then

greets the viewers eye as a lovely surprise. By reducing the importance of the
main subject, Pavel has provided context for the entire scene allowing the
subject to become integrated into the
scene rather than dominating it.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Including a foreground element can do


more than just add interest, it can create
a greater sense of depth and 3-dimensionality.
In this shot, Steve has stepped back into
the forest almost ignoring the main
scene and allowing the trees to slightly
block our view. However, it is because of
the trees and the foreground, that we

12

are better able to imagine the depth of


the scene behind. Without the blackness of the trees, the scene may appear
flat and dull, but by including the trees
Steve has emphasized the contrast
between a gray, misty background and a
sharp foreground.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Using empty space

13

In contrast to lling the frame, empty space can at times be used to enhance the
composition of an image. Sometimes it is used to emphasize movement. Compositionally, to give an impression of movement, it basically comes down to ensuring
that the space ahead of the subject is greater than behind.

In this shot, Steve has carefully cropped


out most of the main subject. At the
same time, he has included empty
space ahead of the swimmer as a
means of using the space to enhance
the viewers experience of movement.

COMPOSITION
BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

14

At other times empty space can be used to create a sense of innity and extend the
story beyond the limitations of the frame. This is the opposite of guiding the viewer
into the image.

Here Evo has composed an image of a


bird of prey gazing into the distance. He
has allowed us to experience the enormity of that distance by incorporating a
large empty space ahead of the bird.
This gives the impression that the

space extends indenitely and allows


the viewer to experience the scene
beyond the connes of the frame.

COMPOSITION

15

BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Meet the artists.

All the photos featured in this eBook were taken by our tour guides at Creative
Endeavors. With a breadth of experience in both teaching and photography, theres
no one we trust more to lead our students through Bulgarias captivating landscapes.

Evo Danchev

Steve Somerville

Hey there, Im Evo. Photography is my life. My photos


have been featured in
National Geographic and
sometimes they win awards
too. Ill help you take some
amazing photos at Creative
Endeavors. See you soon!

Hi, Im Steve. Ive been


taking professional photos
for advertising rms and
news agencies for well over
three decades.
Im excited to share my tips
and tricks with you on your
next Bulgarian adventure.

Stay tuned.

This is the rst installment in a four part series exploring


Composition. In Part II of our series on Composition we
discuss the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines and more.
Want to take great photos like these?
Visit us at http://photoholidayce.com and learn how.
CREATIVE
ENDEAVORS

Phil Sheil
My name is Phil, Im a photographer and university
professor teaching ne arts.
But dont worry, Im one of
the fun professors. Join us
at Creative Endeavors and
well have a great time
and I guarantee youll learn
a thing or two while were at
it!

CREATIVE
ENDEAVORS

SHARE THIS EBOOK


This eBook is free. Help your friends become
better photographers by sharing this eBook.