8 : Composition

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Two Visual Tricks

This week we have a double lesson! You will be taking pictures to practice and explore two different styles of composition: The Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines. We will shift gears away from the technical side of photography for the next few weeks so that you can apply your new camera skills to being creative. If you are ever in doubt about a particular technique, we recommend going back to review a previous lesson.

1. The Rule of Thirds 

This one of the most beloved rules of composition. It creates visual appeal, leading the eye through the elements of your image. Practicing composition can be done with any camera - its a great way to kick off a new creative project!

To begin, imagine a simple grid that is created by dividing an image into equal thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The grid creates four points of interest. The most important part of your image should be placed at one of these intersections. The grid also shows the ideal placement for a horizon. Move your subject out of the center of the frame and into one of these dynamic quadrants!

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Go off-center, and then some

  • You may need to recompose your image several times before finding a composition that really works. Move yourself higher or lower, closer or farther from your subject.

Tell a story through composition

  • Observe how the elements of your scene relate to each other. Use negative space, like an area of blurry background, to enhance the dominance of your subject.

Examples of Rule of Thirds

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Challenge:

Because it's so beloved, many of you may already be familiar with the Rule of Thirds. Challenge yourself to capture images which use not one, but two or more intersections, deepening the connectivity and narratives in your photos. 

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Creative Prompts

  • Shooting outside, place the horizon in the lower third of your frame and place a person in the right third of your frame.
  • Take a close up with your subject's eye off-center in the upper-right intersection.
  • Use architectural features or furniture to help define the areas in your image along the intersections.

2. Leading Lines

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What better way to draw the eye toward your subject than with  a direct line? Leading lines push the viewer directly toward the subject of your photo. We are surrounded by these handy visual elements. Roads, rivers and railroad tracks are all examples of leading lines. They give a sense of action and motion, while connecting the foreground and background elements of your image. 

When composing a shot that incorporates leading lines, consider the following three things:

What lines already exist in the setting?

  • Roads, hallways, sidewalks, curvy paths, table edges, and floorboards are examples of everyday objects that work as leading lines.

Where should the subject of the image appear within the frame?

  • When visualizing the image, will the subject appear in the center, far corner, or side? Will the subject be close to the camera or far away?

Where to position oneself in order to connect those lines to the subject?

  • Positioning and perspective are key when using leading lines. Where the photographer stands (or sits, lays, etc…) determines how the lines move the eye across the image.

Examples of Leading Lines

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Creative Prompts

Need a bit of help getting started?  Try using one or more of these prompts to experiment with leading lines:

  • Hallways
  • Sidewalks, roads, and paths
  • Floorboards, tile, or brick masonry
  • Staircases
  • Table's edge

The ultimate challenge

Do you have a firm grasp of both Rules of Thirds and Leading Lines? Great! We challenge you to combine them in one picture. Keep your eyes peeled for compositions which fit both rules!

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Share your images!

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