You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Composition - Organising Space
Good morning and welcome to the third and final blog on composition. This week we will look at organising space and different ways to 'frame' your subject to make them stand out. I really think that I have only just touched on composition and have not included some major elements during these three weeks...hopefully though, it will give you a little taste for more and you can go on and do some research yourself on other elements of composition within digital photography.
Enjoy and thanks for reading,
Composition is the process of organising subject elements in the creative space. All photographic images start with a selection, but before you can even make that section, you must think about the proportions of the frame that will contain it. The most common choices for most photographers are if you want portrait (vertical format) or landscape image (horizontal format).
Landscape Format So called, landscape because it is this subject with which this format is most strongly associated. The format emphasises the horizon or any major horizontal line in the image. It conveys a sense of stability and direction.
Portrait Format Yes, you guessed it. So called because of its natural association with portraits. This format comfortably captures head and shoulder portraits as well as full length images of people.
Rectangular frames are the most common although some lenses can project circular images. The proportions of a rectangular frame is known as 'aspect ratio' and is width divided by height and is commonly written as two whole numbers i.e. 3:2.
Without getting too technical, the diagram below offers a few of the common formats available today. You can see that the medium format is by far the largest offering the biggest sensor and comes in camera's such as the Hasselblad. The canon 1D and 5D and the Nikon D3 series offers the next biggest sensor sizes called 'full frame'.
It is considered that the aspect ration of 3:2 or 1.5 is the ideal format and it is the full frame, the 35mm and the 6x9 medium format that come closest to this ideal.
Of course during your processing you can change the aspect ratio to be whatever you wish. Panoramic is popular and can be created by choosing an aspect ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 when editing or you can go square, which is naturally 1:1.
The exact reasons that Oscar Barnack chose the 3:2 format in 1912 when he created the 35mm movie camera isn't known, but it does closely resemble the dimensions of the golden rectangle which has it's origins in Greek Mathematics.
Aspect Ratio Examples The image of the ship below is shown in several aspect ratios, some of which are more suited to it than others.
Separating the Subject
Ok, moving on, lets look at how we can visually separate the chosen subject from the rest of the frame. There are a number of options here -
1. Move the subject away from the middle of the frame. It is natural to want to place the subject in the middle of an image. This often creates large redundant space on either side of the subject. Try to place the subject on either side of the middle and use the rule of thirds (in an earlier blog) to position the point of interest.
2. Use the aperture to control the 'depth of field' allowing only certain aspects of the image to be in focus. Check the earlier blogs if you want a refresh on aperture.
3. Change the size of the subject. Allowing the subject to 'fill the frame' will focus the viewer on the subject. Position yourself or use the zoom on the camera to allow the subject to become larger in the frame.
The image of the jellyfish below in it's panoramic format emphasises the long tail of the jellyfish and accentuates it reaching through the water.
'To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which give that event proper expression.' ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson (French photographer and painter)
Your Challenge Try shooting some of your favorite subjects this week and think about firstly, what you want the viewer to concentrate on....what is the main subject and then, how can you make that subject stand out from the rest of the image.
Next Time September continues with the blog and we will cover file formats (jpeg/raw etc) and different lenses. Enjoy the rest of your August and see you in September.
As always, I would love to hear any comments or questions you have.