This section contains just some basic
guidelines on composition and visual design. More can be
found in the Aesthetics
Remember, these are guidelines, not
'rules'. They are intended to help you avoid basic 'mistakes'.
They will make sense most of the time, but if you
have a sound reason to do things differently, by all means
follow your instincts.
The viewfinders or LCD screens of most
cameras provide a reasonably accurate preview of the picture
you are about to take, so you should take care to ensure
that what you see is what you want, as it is going to be
very similar to what you get!
I shall gradually add some photographs
to illustrate many of the points made here, when the site is
up and running.
Fill the image with
At least, have the subject big enough
so that it can be clearly seen. This is especially critical
when you plan to only make small prints of your images. If
Aunt Edna is just a tiny speck on the horizon, that may be a
great landscape, but it's not a portrait of Aunt Edna.
Robert Capa (1913-1954, perhaps the greatest war
photographer of all time) said "If your pictures aren't
good enough, you're not close enough".
Check the space
around your subject
So far as possible, arrange your shot
so that the background and other space around your subject
is free of distracting irrelevant details. Take special care
with the edges of the frame. The classic example of not
watching this issue is the telegraph pole growing out of
young Harry's head.
Framing the subject
Centering the subject within the frame
makes for a static composition. This may be what you want,
but overdoing it can become tedious. Consider other
placements: nearer a side, nearer the top or bottom, etc.
The 'rule of thirds' (that the centre of interest should
be located one third of the width from a side and/or one
third of the height from the top or bottom edge) often works
well, but don't bother too much about getting the
measurement exact. Try to develop a feel for what looks
good. Subjects in motion should normally appear to be
moving into the picture, with space in front of them, rather
than facing out of the frame, as if they are about to leave.
Unless you are aiming for something
rather unusual, hold your camera level so that horizontal
lines remain horizontal. Don't tilt your camera up or
down, or vertical lines will converge. If you actually want
this effect, then tilt your camera decisively to make sure
it looks intentional and cannot be mistaken for an accident.
It is usually distracting when
tangencies occur between lines in different planes. For
example, if a distant line touches the curved border of a
foreground object, this can cause visual confusion between
the two components of your image. Move the camera position
in order to break the tangency.
Be careful when composing shots of
people to avoid cutting off extremities in ways that look
like amputations. This does not mean you must always have
the whole body in frame. It does mean that the parts
included should look like a coherent composition. You can
have a close-up of the face, for example, which does not
show all the hair or even the ears or much of the neck. In
general, don't cut at joints. A three-quarter shot cut off
between the hips and the knees will often work OK. A
full-length shot cut off at the ankles probably won't.
The elements of visual design are
shape, line and texture. They are created by light through
tonality (shades of light and dark) and color (hue).
Striking images exhibit proportion, rhythm and balance, or
perhaps a subtle dose of imbalance. Learn to look for these
elements in your images and consider how they work together.
The best way to develop a sense of
visual design and a feeling for good composition is to study pictures by the great masters of photography, and
also painting. The best introduction to visual design I have
ever read is a book called "Photography and the Art of
Seeing" by Freeman Patterson.
More on this topic in the Aesthetics