Composition part 3

Notice: Undefined index: category_below_content in /home/julia329/public_html/wp-content/plugins/shareaholic/public.php on line 381

Okay we are ready for the last post in the overview of rules of Composition.

Following on from Depth of Field and complimentary to it is Background.

Often the background is the most overlooked part of an image. We are so focused on our area of focus that we don’t notice the distractions. Take a moment to look around the frame of the image you have created to make sure there is nothing there that takes away from the image, no trees growing out of peoples heads, no limbs cut-off, no rubbish blowing around.


defining image by light

The background should be secondary to the main subject both in  tone and subject.We should look to see that the object or subject stands out from the background and shows it off or highlight it.  Unsharpness and blur can be used to separating the subject from the background and so can light, colour or contrast.





Symmetry, this can add another interest to the image and draw the viewer into the image. Symmetry is usually vertically or horizontally and splits the image into two halves.

It can bring sense of calm that soothes the viewer and a harmony that brings a sense of peace with it..The secret to an image with great symmetry is to have a strong point of focal interest and great composition. Otherwise the shot looks very clichéd.

sturt pea top view








Symmetry often appears in Patterns or Textures. If you add symmetry and texture as well as a strong focal point you can create an almost three dimensional image.

It is easy to find symmetrical images, it is far harder to capture them in an eye catching and interesting way. Other places you will often get symmetry is in reflections and in architecture.

Patterns have always captured the imagination are are great to use in photography as they can create an abstract image where only the pattern is shown or can add an interesting element to a wider angle of photograph. Pattern is the repetition of a visual design or element in a photograph. Patterns are everywhere around us, in architecture, in nature, in science and in man made objects.

A repeating pattern in an image is like a rhyming stanza in a poem or the chorus of a song.

Often to find the patterns in an image you have to look for it from different angles, also different lighting can create patterns including patterns made of shadows. Patterns are often hidden within an element, so you have to really look for them.




Patterns can also be broken to create drama and add an extra element of interest. Our eyes are drawn to the point where the pattern is broken. This is a way of directing the eyes of the viewer.

Depth of field and colour also play a part in making an image of a pattern have depth and interest. As the focus blurs we get the feeling of the pattern going on to infinity and where the colour is contrasted it makes the single colour element stand out from the other areas of pattern, once again adding interest and depth. Lighting is also important in patterns as in every area of photography.

If you like a pattern try photographing it in as many different lighting situations as you can and you will get the feel for what makes a dramatic image and what makes a more peaceful, calming image.

Texture is another area that is very similar to patterns as it works in the same way, the difference is that a lot more things have textures than have patterns. Texture adds depth to an image and if you add a foreground interest with texture it helps balance an image as well as draw the viewer. The trick to photographing detail is to take it from as side on as possible to capture the most detail, so this applies to texture as well, for example if you want to add a foreground interest to a landscape and say it’s a log or a rock, to get the texture to stand out get down really low so you are shooting it from it’s height, taking the side view of the object instead of looking down on it from above.

texture in rock








Color  & Contrast

Certain colours really pop in photos, most notably red and blue

Cold colors (bluish) and warm colors (reddish) almost always contrast. Cold colors recede, while warm colors advance. Light colors contrast against dark ones, and a bold color offsets a weak color.


colours that pop







Black and white & contrast

Low-key and high-key pictures convey mood and atmosphere. Low key often suggests seriousness and mystery and is often used in horror pictures, such as a dark-granite castle in a thunderstorm. High key creates a feeling of delicacy and lightness. A photograph of a fair-skinned, blond-haired mother dressed in a white gown against a light background nursing her baby is a good subject for a high-key picture.

adifferent view

The underside of Busselton Jetty








High Key Images

High-key color pictures contain large areas of light de-saturated colors (pastels) with very few middle colors or shadows. Intentionally overexposing color film (exposing for the shadows) helps to create this effect in the days of the darkroom, we can now create this image in camera and further refine it in post processing.

Low Key Images

These are the opposite of high key images. A low-key effect is created when the scene is dominated by shadows and weak lighting. Low-key pictures tend to have large areas of shadow, few highlights, and degraded colors. Naturally dark subjects are best for low-key pictures.


Low key image

Low Key and High Key images are often used in high end fashion shoots.






It is important to have balance in an image, for example if you have a strong foreground element on one side, you really need something to balance it it the background, or as in this one something to balance an object on one side mirroring the objects on the other side to balance the overall image.

three birds

Balance in an image, rule of odds








Framing adds an unexpected element to an image and helps draw us into an image. Frames can be man made or natural, both work well.

a palm frond frame









Often less is more. If you look at an image and don’t know where to look as there is so much within it then it may be time to simplify it. Create a series of images, each one focusing on one element. The images will be stronger and hold the viewers attention longer.

full moon 1

Full moon in Broome WA, detail







Fill frame

This is similar to simplify, if you fill the frame with your main object everyone knows what they are looking at. This also works great for abstracts. If an abstract, texture, pattern or symmetry fills the frame it intrigues the viewer even more.

color and fill frame

fill frame


Rules of Composition – Part two

Notice: Undefined index: category_below_content in /home/julia329/public_html/wp-content/plugins/shareaholic/public.php on line 381

In this post we will cover more of the rules of composition. Many people think the ratio’s including Rule of Thirds are the end of the composition guidelines, but they are only one aspect. These are some of the others: Rule of Odds, leaving space, colour,texture, patterns (including symmetry), viewpoint, depth of field, orientation, Framing, leading lines, balance, simplify, background, focal depth, angles and take time. I will cover some in this post and the rest in Part three.

First, I want to talk about composition in general. The first two things you should ask when you look at a scene, the first is, what is the interesting element, what will people want to look at or what do I want to show people. Second should be what is the story I want to tell about this. This will then lead your composition. You will know you want to put the interesting elements at the intersecting points of the ratio rules and is there a leading line I can use to draw people into the image. What angle conveys the feeling I am getting. We see in 3D, photos are only 2D, so often we need to exaggerate something to make it feel the same in an image to what we experienced. Choosing a different angle often does this, as do all the rules of composition, so lets have a look at them.

Leading lines are designed to lead your eye into an image. We have learnt in the previous post that the intersection points are where our eyes tend to go first, so we want to create a leading line to draw people into the image and toward the point we want them to focus on .This also often gives the image a feeling of depth. We should stay away from lines that are completely horizontal, except the horizon of course, if a leading line is horizontal, it tends to form a wall or barrier, so we want a line that leads us to the focal point of the image.

leading line with golden ratio

leading line angling in from corner






If the leading line is on an angle, I try to start that angle at the corner of the image as this makes it a stronger leading line.

leading line and rule of thirds

another example of a leading line






This leading line is heading into image along the grid line of the rule of thirds and the dingy is near the intersection of the third lines balancing the image. We want the whole image to be interesting and to get people to give than glance at the image and then move on, so we use the rules of composition to help create an image that stands out and that captures the attention of the viewer.

Orientation is the next we will look at. Does this image lend itself to landscape or portrait orientation. Mainly landscapes are shot in horizontal, but sometimes it pays to experiment with vertical as well and the same goes for portraiture, which is normally shot vertically, try some horizontal ones as well.

Canarvon Jetty

…begins with one step.
Carnarvon Jetty









This is a landscape type image that is taken in a portrait or vertical orientation.


A couple enjoying the sunshine and the seclution of the pools at the top of Joffre Falls








This is an image of people taken in a landscape or horizontal orientation.

Have you ever heard of the Rule of Odds? This is where it is recognized that an odd number of things in a line or row or group is beter than an even number. With an even number our eye automatically goes to the middle of them which is a blank area, but with three it settles on the middle one.

rule of odds

two finches, see how your eye goes to the gap in the centre

three finches

rule of odds













This doesn’t mean you can’t have two people or two animals in a picture, just be aware of this and make sure their is no gap between them or they are interacting.

Jude and Neve

We are drawn to what is in the middle






Our eyes are drawn to what they are looking at between them. so in this case it helps to make the image and direct our eyes.

Another one along these lines is the rule of Leaving Space, this is where you leave room for our eyes to travel around the scene, to look where a model is looking, or to leave room for the boat to travel into or a bird to fly into. This rule states that if the subject is not looking directly to the camera, or looks out of the frame, there should be enough space for the subject to look into and our eyes to wander into. This technique creates intrigue in the minds of the viewers.

This image shows that there is room for the bike to travel into.

Leaving space 1

Motorbike stunt riding






leaving space 2

Low key

This is another example






Next one is ViewPoint. This is whether you take the image from normal height, bend down and get down low, climb a ladder and get up high. This also includes Angles, which is looking for unusual angles to take the image from. All of these help to add interest to the photo and create an image that looks different.

An example of this is with children, If we stand and take the photo we are actually looking down on the child, this makes the child look smaller, getting down to their level gives you a unique perspective. If you lie on the floor and look up to the child you will get a different perspective again.

If you want to make something look bigger or accentuate it’s size, then get down low. if you want to make something smaller and less significant then look down on it as you take the image.

Often if something is very large or very small it is good to include something that is universal to give a perspective on the object.

In this image I have used my finger just to give an indication of the size.

primrose orchid

This shows the size of a primrose orchid









In this one I have taken the praying mantis down at his level, but you can see the branch he is sitting on, so you realize though he looks large in the image, he is actually quite small.

praying mantis 1









In this image I have shot from down below the rocks, giving you a feel of how large the boulders are.

Rock formations

Unusual formations







This is a picture of my puppy, yes she is tiny, the work boots give you a reference point to know her size and I have got down on the grand to take her straight on

tuesday 3

Pappillion puppy






In this image I have enhanced the flower by shooting from below so the flower fills the frame and is highlighted against the light.

red tulip

Canberra Floriade








The next rule I would like to tell you about is Depth, this also includes Depth of Field.

Depth is the feeling of depth, this is another thing that helps make the image look more 3D as we are able to see into the image.  An image that you want to have real depth, for example a landscape image you need to look at the foreground, the middle ground, and background. The photos that really grab your attention will be ones that have some foreground interest as well as the main part of the image and then something interesting in the background, often the background is the sky in landscape.

log at sunset

foreground interest






This image has the branch as the foreground element, the ocean is the mid-ground and the sunset and clouds the background. If we only had two of these elements it would be a nice image, but having all three makes it a much more powerful image.

Depth of Field is used here to make sure that the whole image is in focus so that you can see all the scene. For this I used a large depth of field, which means a small aperture, which is a higher f stop. This was taken at f11.

Depth of field is the area of an image that is in focus.

Aperture is the amount of light that enters the camera. It is similar to the pupil on a human eye. In darker situations our pupil opens up to allow more light in and in really bright light our pupil closes down to let less light in. The f-stop is an inverse of this, so a small aperture is a large f-stop(f11-22) and a large aperture is a small f-stop(f1.5-5.6).

People get very confused with this. I like to remember it like this.

A large aperture = a small depth of field = a small f-stop

A small aperture = a large depth of field = a large f-stop

We can use depth of field to draw the viewers attention to where we want it. For example if it is a busy scene and we want our subject to stand out, then we use a small depth of field, so only the main object is in clear focus and the rest is blurred, we know it’s there, but we don’t pay much attention to it.

This is an image with a narrow depth of field, see how the background is blurred accentuating the flower.

karri spider orchid

shallow DOF