tkrhodes 6:29pm, 15 August 2012
As I continually look through the great pictures being added to this group and how strong the composition is for most, I am curious as to what the though process is for people when determining the best composition for each of their subjects? How do you determine frame placement, additional elements and how much DOF you want to include? Is there anything that is an absolute must for you when composing your image?

What are your thoughts?
vudie 4 years ago
great setting (environment), interesting model, great light (natural/artificial), props or wardrobes/ outfits, any of these elements involve then the compostion will just flow...thats as far as my understanding from my limited knowledge and experience. I think if you have pre thought or have an image in mind then you can control these elements, if you are a candid shooter then you would subconsciously seek out these elements to create images. Some one did say "concept is king"
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
I have an article on this coming out in a week or so :)

But yes, firstly it's about having a strong idea - this is usually expressed in the interplay between subject and light, and then context/ background. Technical execution is last on the list.
Digital Adrian PRO 4 years ago
There are some general guidelines right? Like leading the eye to the subject, the rule of 3rds and so on?
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
Yes and no; for every shot that works and follows the guidelines, there are a whole bunch that don't, and yet another bunch that break the rules completely. I think matching the composition to the subject and situation is far more important.
ihorpona2010 4 years ago
Having taught design for many years,yes there are rules, historical guidelines, and mother nature and all contain some truths and are helpful if one takes the time and trouble to study them. Add to this what one 'feels' to all of this and you have access to understanding composition. This is important in being able to know/feel when it is fortuitous to break these rules in order to create something that that is truly new, innovative thought provoking, etc, etc. The only advice I would give is to follow your heart and feeling - this internal gut feeling has within it a culmination of all of ones experiences, intellect and raw reaction to what you see and feel. Picasso said it best in that it had taken him year to learn to draw/paint like a child. Somehow, over the many years of life, we have beaten out that beautiful, raw ability to see things anew.
fine_idea PRO 4 years ago
Seems to me composition is sometimes deliberate, other times it is quick, "intuitive", and the result of mental processes of which you are not concsciously aware. A lot depends on the subject: if he/she/it is still and you have time, you will likely deliberate and compose with more forethought. You may even plan to wait for better light, for other dynamic elements to appear, or even to return another day for better light or other conditions. Dynamic subjects require you to react so fast there is no time to think consciously. Often the less conscious processes lead to more interesting results that are "outside the box" of convention and rules.

I read an interview with one successful photographer who says that as he has grown in experience, composition has become a spontaneous "just in time" process instead of a deliberative one.

But I suspect we are all different, and over time find ways to succeed while following different practices.
tkrhodes 4 years ago
My question more revolved around how people here in this group attacked composition. I have a few things that I go through when setting up a shot, or even after I've taken my initial shot there are things I look for to see if I can make any improvements compositionally. Does anyone have a "check-list", for a lack of a better term, that they use when creating their work?
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
Only two items:
1. A clear subject
2. Balance

The second one is much tougher to define - basically, there shouldn't be any spatial 'voids' where the eye lingers because there's nothing of interest in those spaces.
ihorpona2010 4 years ago
May I suggest an exercise used by design students:

Collect a few items (kitchen utensitls, desk items, workshop tools) and place on a flat surface. Arrange them in a variety of ways in compositions that please you. Use Ming's suggestion. Photograph them and wait a few days and then select one or several that you think have merit.
Reducing the world to items, each having its own character, colour, form/shape is one way of seeing through the camera lens. If you enjoy doing this exercise, then you are exercising your imagination.
lao_hu PRO 4 years ago
As a newbie still learning the technicalities of photography I find that composition is probably the most challenging aspect of it all.
dhaneshr 4 years ago
I would agree with fine_idea that composition, at least to me now, has become largely intuitive. It has come through practice and looking at lots of good photographs. Initially, yes, I did read about rules of the third, balance, leading lines etc....but over time it has culminated into some sort of second nature the moment I hit the shutter release.
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
dhaneshr - you bring up a good point about looking at plenty of images: that was one of the reasons why I started this group. It's so that we can go somewhere to see images that 'work' - regardless of subject or light etc. I don't think that exists anywhere on flickr with a consistent level of quality.
tkrhodes 4 years ago

For the very reasons you pointed out are the very reasons that I check this group nearly every day and try and participate as much as possible. I've enjoyed the high quality and diverse images submitted here and really the time you take to ensure their quality.

When you say "spacial void" though, you're not talking explicitly about negative space are you? Just areas that detract from the main subject in any manner?
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
It could be negative space, or more generally, any emptiness devoid of texture or interest which isn't balanced against the other areas of the composition. E.g. if you've got a horizontal frame with one subject 2/3rds of the way across and nothing else, it's probably fine; however, if the right 1/3rd was full of detail, and the left completely empty, the composition would feel right-heavy. Does that make some sense?
Amryl Malek 4 years ago
I find that pre visualisation of an image helps a lot, and for that to happen you should have a good idea and a good understanding of the nature of your subject matter. Always research the subject you want to shoot. For myself, I shoot a lot of landscape, and that requires me to understand not just lighting, but the weather, the geography and much more.
mingthein PRO 4 years ago
Absolutely. This is even more critical when you are shooting things you have no control over - wildlife is a good example...
kay.muras PRO 4 years ago
clear subject, balance, pre-visualation and undestanding...all these components are essential. but, as ming stated lastly, there are many situations, you have to react and act intuitively, simply because you don't have the time. so antecipation is one more important component. I'd like to emphasize, that the balance between those components may differ in each situation. there are many good images - without sending any vibrations to the viewer. there are images, violating rules of composition, but having a message and a soul.
NYCandre PRO 4 years ago
Regarding composition I am reminded of something HCB did routinely -and which I still haven't done for myself: he would look at his pictures upside down. I suppose that would be to neutralize our preconceptions of context and better isolate the geometrical/ compositional aspect of an image.
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