Some believe that photography is simply taking a picture of something, and that notion is strengthened even more on my area of preference, landscape photography. It is often viewed as just being in the right place at the right time and taking a picture, however there is a lot of technique and understanding that goes into photography. When you study a craft you start to see things differently. When I was younger, I loved to make movies with my friends. I was inspired by many of the films that I watched growing up but simply on an entertainment level. I went to college and actually studied film and as a result, I obtained a new appreciation for film as an art. I began to see the techniques and style in all of the movies I watched, and truly saw them in a different light. The same thing happened when I began studying photography. Yes, you can look at a picture and admire the aesthetics of a piece, but to truly appreciate it, you need to know the techniques and styles that went into it. Many think photography is an easy art, you simply point a camera and click a picture, however there is a ton of different nuances to the process that go into making a great photograph. In this post I will be focused on an introduction to composition but we will dive into other areas in later posts such as gear, lighting, post editing, and special techniques to get those fantastic shots.
Everything but the subject
When composing a shot, it is important to know what your subject is and what message you are trying to send with your shot. When identifying your subject do not get tunnel vision and focus solely on the main subject. The surroundings of the subject may be more important than the subject itself when trying to properly compose a good shot. Look at the foreground and background for ways to add depth and interest into a shot. Taking a landscape as an example, you may want to take a picture of a certain landmark and focus on it, however if you include an item in the foreground such as a rock or other feature, you will vastly improve the depth and composition of the shot. In the example below, I could have gotten caught up and taken a picture of just the northern lights, but by including the beach and ice, it adds substance and depth, making it a much more interesting picture.
Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a guideline that helps you maximize the impact of your images by optimizing the placement of your subject in the frame. If you divide your viewing area into 3rds horizontally, as well as thirds again vertically, you get a grid of 9 equal parts. The rule of thirds states that the subject of your picture should lie on one of those lines, preferably at the intersection of those lines. This is an important differentiation when you see a photo from someone who has not studied photography. It is natural to want to put your subject right in the middle of your shot, but the human eye is naturally drawn to intersection of these lines, not the center of the frame. While rule is in the name, this should be considered more of a guideline, and not a steadfast rule. It is always up to the photographer on whether or not this will produce the shot they want.