Purposeful composition of the image is the main differentiator between a snapshot and a photograph; between simply taking a picture, and making a picture. This should not be taken as ‘snapshots are forbidden’ – sometimes, capturing a short moment is way more important than everything around it. Usually, though, you will have the time to spend some thoughts on how to be best put the targeted motive into scene. We all know the typical vacation shots: horizon and/or person in the centre of the frame. I admit, I myself have produced quite a lot these in the past. And we all know how boring these pictures usually are.
Of course, there is more than enough literature on composition – you can literally hold entire lectures on that topic. And that is again exactly the problem: when searching on the internet, you will find pages after pages full of text, losing itself in details and historical context, and often without giving illustrative examples. Or you may find a good page, which then only talks about one isolated aspect, such as the rule of thirds for instance.
So I was extremely happy when I found Barry O Carroll’s blog. Besides the picture galleries from his numerous travels, he has also written and published a number of guides. Foremost, the “Guide to Composition in Photography – 20 Tips“. In a well-structured overview, he presents the essential rules for composition – each with illustrative marked-up image examples and a short(!) text. Composition in a nutshell – in my mind, it can’t be done any better.
Keep in mind: these rules are not set-in-stone laws which you have to follow strictly at all times. Take them as inspiration how to arrange your pictures in more interesting ways. Once you have internalised them, and take a look at famous photographs, you will quickly recognise a number of these patterns.
Recommendation: Absolutely take a look!
What I’ve learned: All theory is grey, pictures say more than a 1,000 words – here is a fantastically prepared, concise and illustrative summary that provides lots of inspiration for the composition of your own images. The photo examples with the added lines and markings demonstrate very well how and why each respective rule works.
- Barry O Carroll: Guide to Composition in Photography – 20 Tips
Picture credits: Title image: own image