Why Photographers Should Study Comic Books for Composition Inspiration

A tip from my friend Alexander Morgan:

For inspiration or ideas to make better photography compositions, let us study comic books.

Why comic books?

The great thing about comic books for composition:

  1. You can quickly flip through the pages of a comic book (I prefer to look at them on iPad or phone) and quickly identify compositions which are appealing or interesting to you. Take a screenshot when you find a good panel.
  2. Comics are very innovative in visual storytelling, especially how they collage and mural pictures onto a single page.
  3. Illustrated comics mimic camera angles (low perspective, high perspective), and often have more interesting transitions than movies or films. Also, comics can transcend reality, thus you can see more innovative compositions in comics (compared to photographs or live action films). Pro tip: study composition in animated films (AKIRA animated film is epic, as well as “Paprika”, and anything by Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli. Same goes with Pixar films).

Black and white or color comics?

I like both.

One of my favorite art pieces of all time is AKIRA. Started off as monochrome comic, then later colorized by an American company, and was also made into an animated film.

The good thing with monochrome comics:

You have to use more brainpower to imagine how the colors would look like.

Thus, perhaps for creativity, black and white comics are more engaging.

Yet, I still love color comics, to study the palette. I also love the emotional response I get from colors.

Akira and modern cyberpunk

Note the similarities between AKIRA and Blade Runner, Matrix, and almost any modern cyberpunk film.

Don’t just look at comics, analyze them.

When experiencing a comic book, some suggestions:

  1. Try to determine when the “camera angles” in the book shift.

  2. Ask yourself why certain scenes have a lot of dialogue and some scenes have little dialogue.

  3. How does the comic book artist divide the panels? And why? Why do they decide to sometimes do full spreads, and often not?

Why isn’t there more artistic appreciation for comics?

Manga is a cult like thing in Japan (and also in America). Yet for the most part, comic books aren’t seen as “legitimate” art. But this is nonsense. Great comic books are great and high art.

Read more comics, watch fewer movies

If you want to learn more composition, I suggest studying more comic books.

Start off with AKIRA, then study Calvin and Hobbies. I’m new to comic books, but expect to see more articles here on this blog.


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