When learning to compose your photograph through the viewfinder of your camera a few rules of composition will help. By learning some basic rules you will start to see the composition through your view finder. Your eye becomes so trained that after a while you apply the rules automatically without even thinking about it. I photograph so automatically anymore that many of the rules I donít even think about even though I use them most of the time in the composition of my photographs. As I write this article I find I am having to dig into my memory about the rules, since I rarely think about them anymore. This a good review for me while I pass the rules onto you.
As in any creative medium rules are made to be broken. I do believe it is important to learn the rules even if you end up breaking them. When I break the rules in my compositions there is a reason, or something I want to say with it. But while you are learning I hope you will practice some of these rules and see how much it improves seeing your composition in your viewfinder.
The Rule of Thirds is one rule that will make your photographs stand out and command attention. When we first begin to photograph we want to center the object such as a beautiful rose. We zero in on the rose and forget other interesting elements that could add to the photo such as a rosebud or even the foliage. We walk up to the rose aiming straight into the center of the rose without even thinking about. This is great for a bullís eye look but I believe we really want to see something a lot more pleasing to the eye.
First thing you want to do is divide your viewfinder into thirds both horizontally and vertically as seen in each box of this illustration.
There is no need to be precise, a proximity of your imaginary lines will work. This is where you will place important elements of your photo. A strong horizontal line, such as a fence, you will want to put on one of the horizontal lines or close to it. A strong vertical line such as a tree trunk would be placed near or on one of the vertical lines. Placing either one of these strong elements in a centered position makes the design appear static.
At the points where the lines intersect is where you will want to place a strong object such as a large flower or a focal point in the garden. If you follow a diagonal that goes through the intersections such as in this lily photograph you create an image with motion that creates excitement.
Here is a great exercise to do this week that will help you become accustomed to visualizing your finished photo. Go out to your garden and shoot photos using the Rule of Thirds as your guide. Take several different angles of each subject. Choose a strong vertical element and photograph it. Center it in your first shot. Then use the imaginary vertical lines that divide the viewfinder into thirds and place the vertical elements near the lines. Then select a horizontal element and photograph it with one shot centered, one shot of it on the top line and the other shot near the bottom line. Then try shooting something on the diagonal line. Do a comparison shot of the focal point centered and then another angle where the main elements line up on the diagonal.
After you download the images (and size them all the same size) or get the film back from the lab place the different shots of the same subject side by side and compare them. If you would like to share the comparisons here on the discussion for this article, please feel free to post them. It would be great a great visual learning tool to see the differences. Happy shooting!