Composition in photography is this:

To construct, to build, prepare, and put together/arrange an image.

Opposite of destroy?

The word “destroy” comes from de-struo (to un-create).

Thus, in simple words: composition in photography is to construct/build an image. You do this by 1) Preparing for the photograph (planning to take a photo BEFORE a decisive moment), and 2) Placing and arrange visual elements in a frame.


1. How to arrange visual elements in a frame

Consider photography like visual Tetris. You look for building blocks, and decide how to re-arrange the blocks:

For example, look at the picture above. Some questions I might ask myself:

  1. How much of the red should I show, versus the blue?
  2. Do I prefer to shoot this picture as a vertical (portrait orientation) or a horizontal (landscape orientation)? Or– do I prefer to tilt the photo?
  3. How close do I get to the thing I want to photograph, or how far away? For example in the above picture, I took lots of photos on 28mm lens (Ricoh GR II), at different distances. I took around 10 photos, and decided to keep the above photo, because I felt it had the most dynamic balance.

2. What is my subject-matter (what do I want to photograph)?

If you want to make a good photo, you need a strong single subject-matter to photograph. This can be your hand, a body part, a face, or something else.

As a practical tip:

When you’re photographing a scene, try to highlight the 1 primary subject.


3. Keep it simple

When you’re composing a scene, keep it simple. My suggestion is to get close to your subject-matter, and fill the frame with it. You can do this by looking at the corners of the frame while you’re composing.

An activity:

Try to make an ‘extremely simple’ photograph– by only showing the extreme minimum in the photo.


4. Center the eye

Put your subject’s eye in the center of the frame. Raphael did this well with his portraits.


5. Outline

Edge detection. You need to have separation between visual elements in your frame and the background.


6. Analyze your photos after-the-fact

When you are shooting photos, it is difficult to always ascertain whether a composition will be good or not. Thus, analyze your photos after-the-fact.


Conclusion: Compose like a child

Study the paintings, drawings, and compositions of children. They do it quite naturally.

Remember– to compose is to create. Compose more photos; create more photos.

ERIC


Composition 101

 

Master composition for yourself:

Photography Composition Concepts

Photography Composition Tips

Color Theory

Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors.
Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors. Image from CREATIVE EVERY DAY

Learn From the Masters of Composition

Sergio Larrain Compositions
Sergio Larrain Compositions

Dynamic Photography Composition 101

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

Painting Compositions

Vermeer

Dynamic Photography Composition Tips

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


Composition pictures/grids

Eric Kim photography Bauhaus Piet Mondrian


Golden Diagonal Composition

golden diagonal composition
Golden Diagonal Composition / Kyoto Station, 2018

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