The Art of Composition in Photography

One of my passions is composition — why? It’s a fun visual exercise and game!

Why is composition so fun?

Well this is my thought.

First of all, composition and framing a scene is a challenge, especially if you’re shooting with a wide-angle lens, and if you cannot zoom in and out (instead, if you’re forced to use “foot zoom”). Thus, framing is a fun exercise to stress your visual muscles in a good way. Any fun challenge of composition to try to arrange visual elements in a frame in the most interesting and visually appealing way is a fun challenge!

Now, are there “rules” to composition? I think not. Why? Composition simply means “what something is made up of, or ‘comprised’ of”. There’s no such thing as good or bad composition. However I think there is such a thing as dynamic and vigorous composition, and dull and boring composition.

Why is composition important?

I believe composition is important because it’s the root of art. Without composition, you cannot have photos and you cannot have art.

If you study a lot of artists in the past like Picasso, cubists, Futurists, Bauhaus folks; they were obsessed with composition. They were always trying to change perspective, and how they showed and expressed visual reality.

As a photographer you’re an artist. Even Horace said,

“A picture is a poem without words.”

I’ve actually had greater insights about the poetry of images and photos through studying (written) poetry, instead of studying photography. Why? The art form of photography is still so new; only 100-200 years or so. Poetry goes back at least 2,500+ years, which must mean there’s more wisdom in the philosophy of art-poetry, than photography.

Anyways, if you want to make better photos, study composition! Not just the great master photographers from the past, but study painters! Study Piet Mondrian, Picasso, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and the other greats.

When you see compositions you like, ask yourself:

Why is this composition so good or interesting, and how can I emulate it or make an even more dynamic composition?

Never stop composing!

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