Photo Field Guide | Composition

When you just need a quick set of reminders for working with a photo-taking device, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

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Framing the Shot

Improving your photography skills can hold public attention a bit longer to make a point. Like a storybook you’re developing a strategic narrative for busy, sometimes overwhelmed people and/or supporters to keep them informed.

These are a few methods that have worked for thousands of years to hold the eye of the viewer. If we can grab their eye and hold their attention for .3 seconds or longer, there’s an opportunity to impart the main point of what you want to communicate. This can help build awareness and understanding.

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Rule of Thirds

Visually divide your subject into three parts, vertically and horizontally. Play with centering the focal point and with placing it off-center.


Left to Right

Many people are conditioned to read both text and image from upper left to lower right.
Place your impact-point in the lower right and lead them with the story from the left.

Fibonacci Spiral

Found all over the place in nature, and used in architecture for thousands of years. Composing a shot using this method will reach the subconscious of your viewer, and appeal to them. The point is to work with what is subconsciously familiar to assert a point that may be new to them.

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Imagine the spiral over this image. Consider it in reverse, your eye beginning with the image you see first and drifting back.

Imagine the spiral over this image.
Consider it in reverse, your eye beginning with the image you see first and drifting back.

 

The smokestack image suggests the viewer look at the focal point, where the action is occurring. In this case, the action carries into the clouds and draws the eye from the upper left to the lower right portion of the image.

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Consider how the clouds are collecting what is rising out of this mill, a long-time employer for a small town in Pennsylvania. Smoke stacks like this frequently sit in towns, or just outside of them. Next time you see one, look around at the community who gets the rain from it next.

Consider how the clouds are collecting what is rising out of this mill, a long-time employer for a small town in Pennsylvania. Smoke stacks like this frequently sit in towns, or just outside of them. Next time you see one, look around at the community who gets the rain from it next.

 

On the level

Try out different vertical position with your photos, sometimes getting on the ground-level can draw people into the story you're telling.

A lone traveler at a truck stop on a western highway… a little overwhelmed.

A lone traveler at a truck stop on a western highway… a little overwhelmed.

An industrial center of Denver, CO.

An industrial center of Denver, CO.

 

Diagonal

Leading the eye through your image using a diagonal line can add a sense of action and drama to a photo.

 

Perspective

Framing an image with a diagonal element at play can also be seen as a use of perspective to make a subject more interesting.

Farm photo collecting cucumbers in a hoop-house. An effort to show what goes into providing healthy food to community.

Farm photo collecting cucumbers in a hoop-house. An effort to show what goes into providing healthy food to community.

Sadly, this newt may have been dead, trapped on fresh paved asphalt.

Sadly, this newt may have been dead, trapped on fresh paved asphalt.

 

Close up

Zoom in on your point, the subject you want to share. With a phone this means getting closer. With a camera or a phone, the more you zoom, the greater the chance of blur.

 

Emotion

If you can engage the emotion of a person with an image you have a much greater chance of making your point.

Outside the Atlanta Braves stadium, a statement by local long-time residents, people of color, who were being displaced by the re-zoning of the city in favor of upscale economic development.

Outside the Atlanta Braves stadium, a statement by local long-time residents, people of color, who were being displaced by the re-zoning of the city in favor of upscale economic development.

Fire-season brings many colors, and much to consider.

Fire-season brings many colors, and much to consider.

 

Reflections

Mirrored images are interesting to look at, and symbolic, showing us many aspects of our involvement in the world we share.