Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

To make dynamic compositions — you must be AGGRESSIVE.

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Why rule of thirds is boring

Rule of Thirds x Annette Kim
Rule of Thirds x Annette Kim

The rule of thirds as a beginner photography composition tool is good. But it is boring, and sterile.

Horizontal and vertical lines aren’t as dynamic and sexy as diagonal lines. Diagonal lines are more edgy, dynamic, and have more FORCE. The more diagonals can integrate into your compositions, the better.

The golden triangle

To make stronger, more dynamic and more aggressive compositions, I recommend using the GOLDEN TRIANGLE— seen below.

Golden Triangle x Annette Kim
GOLDEN TRIANGLE by ANNETTE KIM

See the diagonals, and the intersecting points.

Now, your photography compositions don’t always need to fit this grid 100% with absolute precision. Consider the golden triangle as a flexible framework to make you think about diagonals more.

Here are some examples of how diagonal lines and compositions have more POWER and AGGRESSION:

Study diagonal artwork

Supremist painting.

Tilt your camera (Dutch angle)

Wedding picture, note the diagonal tilt and composition.

Study Physics — look for diagonals

Physics example to show how diagonals are more dynamic.

Diagonals in Architecture

Skyscrapers. NYC, 2017. Pentax 645Z

DYNAMIC and aggressive tilt, to make architecture pictures more strong. Tokyo, 2017

Diagonals with leading lines

Man with flip phone. Tokyo, 2017
Dynamic and aggressive composition, because shot from low angle, which emphasizes the diagonal lines pointing to this man.

Don’t center your subject

Off-center subject, note all the diagonals in the frame to make this picture seem more aggressive.

Even this picture of me shooting a selfie— I tried to make as many diagonal lines as possible, and putting myself off-center, on the far right of the frame:

Diagonals and selfie. Red. Tokyo, 2017
Off-center self-portrait in red.

A street picture of a woman in Kyoto, with a flash — note how the picture is dynamic and aggressive — I shot very close with a 28mm, head-on, and she is on the far left of the frame— about to exit the frame:

Walking woman. Kyoto street photograph, 2017
Walking woman. Kyoto street photograph, 2017

Practice diagonal lines on “still life” scenes

Connecting all the diagonals to the edges of the frame, to make an aggressive yet simple composition.

Diagonals in stairs

Man walking up stairs, and looking nack. Dynamic diagonal lines and composition. Tokyo, 2017
Man walking up stairs, and looking nack. Dynamic diagonal lines and composition. Tokyo, 2017

A picture of myself holding an umbrella. I shot this with my RICOH GR II while tilting my camera, to accentuate the diagonal lines in this picture.

Diagonals in film, cinema

Study great cinema, like Akira Kurosawa — and look for Diagonals.

Seven samurai still.
KUROSAWA x ERIC KIM / Boy in bed of flowers
KUROSAWA x ERIC KIM / Boy in bed of flowers. Diagonal composition , golden triangle.

Kurosawa, Seven Samurai
Kurosawa x Kim
Kurosawa x Kim

Diagonals compositional grids

Use these diagrams to inform your diagonal composition mind:

Golden Triangle x Fibonacci Spiral

Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle x Fibonacci spiral by ERIC KIM

Golden Triangle Mathematics

Golden triangle mathematics by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle mathematics by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle mathematics by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle mathematics by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle by ERIC KIM
Golden triangle by ERIC KIM

Advance your photography composition to the next level with ERIC KIM WORKSHOPS >


PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION 101

Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION
Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION

Dynamic Photography Composition

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM
Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:


Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM
DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

 

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM
Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

 

Learn compositional theory:


Compositional lessons from the masters of art

 


Composition lectures