5 Basic Compositional Theories

Photography - 101 Composition, Artistry, And Creating Great Images
11 minutes
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So let's talk about our different compositional theories. The first one I wanted to talk about actually was was symmetry. And it can kind of be somewhat close to a bull's eye. But it's more of like a plan bullseye. Like there are scenes, for example, I've seen awesome landscape shots where the horizon line is on the center, because the sky is equally as awesome as the ground and you have these like, awesome leading lines down a pathway that goes into those are cool. Those are great shots, but it's equal awesomeness.

Yeah, it's symmetrical. But it doesn't have to be that way to be symmetrical. Basically, symmetrical is just when you have equal components kind of top bottom left, right, you have that symmetry to it. So what kind of situations do you typically do symmetry type compositions, if my image has a lot of geometry to it, leading lines, circles, something that just feels really balanced and good balance and can present a strong G, geometric kind of image, then symmetry is pretty good. And so it's just the bull's eye idea, actually. Yeah.

I love That things like architectural stuff, bridges, things that have that kind of natural symmetry built into it look absolutely awesome when you use that rule. Okay, so that's symmetry. Now let's talk about the rule of thirds. This is probably the rule of thirds is based on the golden ratio. And this is probably the most overused, of photographic compositions. But here's the thing, it's overused.

Why? Because it really works. Because it works. It looks good. You can watch it like any, I don't know if this is gonna ruin it for you. But after I learned, like composition, and lighting, and so forth, I watch Hollywood movies.

And that's like, all I could think about, oh, rule of thirds, rule of thirds, like literally, every single shot is rule of thirds. But rule of thirds is great, because you know, you can frame your subject in one spot on that one third, and you leave two thirds of that open space to kind of really set the scene for it. So when are you typically using rule of thirds, I actually use it for a lot of things. I watch my horizon line so that it's on the bottom third, or the top third. I use it for portraiture, even I find that a lot of my images are either Left heavy or right heavy, because it feels good to me. Yeah, I do the same thing.

And you mentioned the interesting thing with the horizon line, putting at the bottom third of the top third, one way that I designed that is really just based on what's more interesting on that particular day. So if I'm out at the beach, and I'm shooting, say, a couple on the beach, if that particular day, we have amazing clouds, what do you think I do? expose more of the clouds? Yeah, I go one third ground to third clouds, because that's the more interesting part of the shot. If the clouds are just kind of for the day or there's no clouds, it doesn't look good. I go to third ground because that's more interest wherever the story is exactly.

So kind of choosing based on that. I also like to, you know, especially with portraits and things like that, framing them even regardless of the distance on that one third line generally gives really nice shots to show those kind of environmental portraits to actually if you look at the faces, they're kind of composed the same way as well. The most important the most interesting and important part of a face to communicate emotion is an eyes which is actually on the top third And if you were shooting on a pretty symmetrical face like yours, I don't know where it could be more symmetric like half like that here. Yeah. kind of funny looking. But if you were to zoom in and do a portrait shot, it's easy to say that the eye should be on that top third, and it makes it very interesting photo.

Absolutely. So rule of thirds is a great technique. Just because it's used a lot doesn't mean you shouldn't use it. The next of our five basic compositional theories is leading lines. This is another one of my favorites. And it's really a great one, you can actually combine all these different I mean, you can combine a lot of these different you can have a shot that has symmetry.

It's also using rule of thirds. It's also using leading lines you can kind of mix and match but basically leading lines are when your lines and your scene are naturally leading into the subject. This is one of my favorite things to look for just because it adds so much interest to a shot like you have all these lines pulling right into one little spot. It brings the viewers eyes down to that place. And when do you usually look for these kind of shots? You know, I use it everywhere.

In weddings, for example, it's really easy using the aisle to direct the eye. It's almost like just a dotted line of arrows telling you where to look. Yeah, exactly. And I can think of one shot. Just recently, like last week, I did an engagement shot and I saw this bridge and the, it was a bridge, but it had this like kind of silver will show the image, but had this like silver top to it. Okay, now, the bridge itself looks pretty crappy.

But if you get down low and you shoot up, you have these crazy leading lines. So basically, I got down low, place the couple in the left corner, and I use the leading lines for the bridge to pull all the way into the couple and you end up with this really kind of cool composition that you wouldn't get otherwise. And I think we even we used well, that one's kind of more of a negative space plus rule of thirds because we had on the left third as well so you guys can check out that shot. So leading lines are awesome for fences, aisles, lines that are natural in architecture, look for these kind of things that can really draw attention into your actual subject. And by the way, we've been using a lot of portrait examples. But that doesn't necessarily need to be the subject, the subject could be really anything that you use leading lines to.

And actually leading lines don't have to be just straight lines. Oh, absolutely, it can be spirals. So let's say that kind of shot where you're looking down on a spiral staircase, and you're directing the eye to look down into your subject. Absolutely. I've seen great photographs to have like, you know, they use street signs and arrows placed in certain areas that that point to the actual subject in the photograph. Those are awesome as well all are kind of kind of just building on that same idea of leading the eye in a composition over to the actual subject, think about it, uh, as connecting the dots to the subject, the pretty dots right?

Now number four is triangles and geometry and it kind of has a piece of leading lines in there but triangles and geometry is a big part of architectural photographs. And not really just shooting architecture by itself but also in when you're shooting portraits in an architectural kind of scene. But also triangles on the body. Like we do that a lot. I actually use that a lot, especially in glamour and just female portraiture, there's something about triangles and V's that are very flattering. For example, I am sitting this way for a reason.

Because it creates leading lines and it frames the body properly. Exactly lots of triangle. And for some reason, scientific studies show triangles to be very interesting to look at. So you'll see all the time in fashion in everything in Buddha and all that kind of stuff you're posing, and just even basic composition. If we look at, for example, Japanese Botanical Gardens gardens, where they do the three thing, it's triangles really is what it is. There's a low, middle and high and it teaches your eye to emphasize.

Yeah, so geometry is another one of those compositional theories. That's great to look for in any scene creating triangles. And the other thing it does too, that I forgot to mention is we actually show it a lot when we're posing her model but you we create space with triangles right? Like bringing our models arm off the side of her hip so it's not flat against her it creates space. It creates an opening in addition to making it more interesting to look at it also Slim's down why it Slim's down the appearance of arms and legs and so forth. And what about in groupings as well it changes levels if people especially when you've got people of similar height, it's easy to pose.

Three or four people if you're doing triangles with their height, maybe they're one seated, one standing up and one's leaning. So you're really interesting in their line. Absolutely. Like kind of one. Yeah, one seating one, like kind of mid height and then one a little bit high. Right?

Right. Awesome. Yeah. So we need a third person right here. To stand right behind us. Yeah, pretty cool with his hand.

Shoulders. All right. Okay, let's go into number five and that's negative space. That's kind of something we referred to earlier. negative space is just leaving basically part of the frame a lot of the frame open, and I love negative spaces. One of my favorite compositional kind have rules or theories, just because it creates so much.

I don't know visual weight on the subject because everything else in this image is kind of just empty. And so I dig shots like that we actually did a shot like that during the shoot where we did the shot of these balloons with our model. And you can see that's a very much a negative space shot and negative space. To me, there's two types, right? There's one that's like where it's just empty color, empty sky, whatever it is, it's just empty. But then there's another type of negative space, that's just, it could be pattern, there's the subjects a very small piece, and it's just some sort of other pattern and the other side, where there's something in that space, kind of like that first downtown shot that we described.

There's something there, but it leads into the subject and it kind of is just empty space. It takes your focus away from nothing, but your subject, I guess, is kind of what it does. Kind of like music. There's a lot of heavy usefulness in silence. Yeah, totally. So when do you use negative space all the time.

I seem to be using all these five things all the time, but I use it for portraiture, a lot. Or just when I really want to clear out my image. And I'll actually use shadows more than light to fill in with negative space. One of my favorite things about negative space too is that if you are creating additional products, if you're its editorial, if you're doing thank you cards, if you're doing whatever, anything, any type of additional product where you might put text, negative space is a must have. I mean, when you're filming, yeah, when you're publishing in a magazine, they want to pick images, or if you're trying to get published in a magazine, especially if it's editorial, they want to pick images that they can place text next to, I should say, probably more commercial use because you basically place like an advertisement or whatever it is, or for say, a thank you card for a couple, they would have them in one area and you'd have open space to place the text so that that text isn't over an area that's busy in the photograph.

So it works extremely well in those kind of cases where you want to place text or an advertisement or whatever it is definitely better. Absolutely. So these are the five basic compositional theories that we wanted to go over in this video now Of course, if you're interested in composition, well, really, there's books. And there's incredible resources that dive completely into all these subjects. It's fascinating to learn. But it's really beyond the scope of this DVD because you can read entire books on the subject of composition.

We've just scratched the surface. Try out these things, I think between these things, most of my images, probably 95% of them would fall into one of the things that we described. If not, if not basically all of them well, a good exercise would be when you're flipping through images in a magazine or through your own photos, see if you can identify one of these five items, or maybe all of them or as many of them as you can, and teach your eye to learn about it, look for it, and then compose it yourself. Absolutely. So that's the challenge for this video we wanted you guys to do is to go out shoot images with these specific five compositional theories in mind when you get awesome shots, upload them to star lounge calm so we can check them out. Tell us about them.

Why you chose those compositional theories and how you feel They kind of emphasize and enhance the subject. Alright, that's it for this video. We'll see you on the next one.

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