INTRODUCTION TO SOME BASICS OF COMPOSITION
Follow the Composition Series here to create better photographs!
Scientists and researchers have described what you know you feel when the basic structure of something is a satisfying visual configuration – the Parthenon in architecture, the Mona Lisa in painting, the iPod and iPad electronic devices, beautiful faces and many other things that are generally considered visually satisfying:
- This satisfying spatial configuration is based on – the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio. It makes you feel good or satisfied.
NOTE: In Composition #2 blog you will learn more about the Golden Ratio – and its cousin the Rule of Thirds. Take a look.
NOTE: Now you can see how the first photograph is structured with the post at 1/3 and the horizon line at 1/3 - (the pile of sand is in the foreground or front plane and blocks you from seeing around the right side = this device is logically called a Foreground Block. You will learn more and more compositional elements in continuing blogs.) The photograph is a glimpse of industrial landscape out the window of a speeding bus. Is it really a photograph about nothing? What time of day is it? What time of year is it? It is not pretty. So, is it - gritty, reality, peripheral vision of something that you really did not see but were aware enough to get a sense of what the whole landscape is about? Again, is it really about nothing?
OK, lets go back to structure. The beauty of knowing about the Rule of Thirds is you can a) purposely use these powerful divisions, or b) consciously depart from them when you are constructing a photograph in the viewfinder of your camera or video camera.
- It depends on whether you want to put all the emphasis on the elements in the image so that the viewer is drawn into the image, or
- if you want to depart from the Golden Ratio for the purpose of destabilizing the image to make the viewer uncomfortable, so that the image emotionally ‘matches’ the uncomfortable subject matter of the scene.
- You can also normalize a horrifying scene – see this site’s blog on “Edward Burtynsky’s Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico” – by using the Golden Ratio exactly, to create a strong and satisfying image of something shocking, mundane or trivial; where the senses are satisfied but the brain objects to the content or never saw it that way before.
So, the Golden Mean or Rule of Thirds, as it is used in art, is just the beginning, but it is a powerful beginning from which to construct your vision, your intention and your mood for an image.
Let’s look at some images using the RULE of THIRDS ……..………1/3 1/3
- Look for main figures on a 1/3 line and important parts or objects at the red ‘power points’ where the four lines cross.
EXAMPLE: Floria Sigismondi is an artist who creates extreme images in both her photographs and her videos. She ‘normalizes’ the images and makes them quick to ‘read’ by using the Rule of Thirds.
Now that you can visualize the thirds grid and know where the four “power points” are, let’s look again and notice how they have been used to construct some vertical images:
- horizon lines or shadows on the top 1/3 horizontal line,
- people placed on a 1/3 vertical line, the face and body in the left photo, or
- important parts/objects on one of the “power points“ - the face and eye - both the left & right images,
- Look again and imagine the grid and power points.
Great art, furniture, architecture, fashion, interior design, devices of all kinds and even our own bodies, follow closely or even loosely the Golden Ratio principle of design. You know in your gut when the design of something deviates too far from the satisfaction of that principle.
- Remember the easy Rule of Thirds proportions = 1:3
THRILL YOURSELF: Start noticing the proportions of everything around you and how you visually feel about what you see! Awareness is a gift to cultivate.