In EP31 of Adventure Photography on Location I’m exploring famous Lake Bled in Slovenia. In this episode I share some of my favourite composition rules & tools with you and how I use them to improve my photography composition techniques.
As with everything, there are rules, and as usual, they are there for a reason. But they can be broken too of course.
Today we’re looking at the rules of composition that I use (and break) and why I do so. So let’s get started!
Most modern cameras have had the option to show guide lines inside the viewfinder and/or on the back of the screen for a while now. And I love this feature! Why not let your camera help you by overlaying a few guiding lines before you even take the shot.
On my camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II I even get more options! I can change the shape, intensity and even the colour of the guidelines and assign them to custom modes on my camera. Really useful! Honestly, this is one of the many many reasons I love this camera!
Rule of thirds or golden ratio?
For a long time I liked the rule of thirds. Splitting my image into 3 on both axes and placing elements on the intersections of those 3rds can really help to create a more pleasing shot.
However, over time, I found that the rule of thirds would force a very balanced feel onto my images. While this might have work for some compositions, I found that in a landscape, where we want to create depth, it is more pleasing if the important areas of a shot are placed by the golden aspect ratio. Meaning they are more centred. This gives room around the edges for the landscape to breath and more space for leading lines to lead the eye to the subject.
Again, this is my personal view on compositions. I don’t always follow those rules, but I always have the golden ratio displayed in the viewfinder. And if I can, I will usually, automatically, place an important element on an intersection of those lines.
I like to apply the rule of thirds in a different level. By trying to divide my image into 3. Three elements that make up the composition. Either 3 contrasting shapes, a repetition of 3 or a simple transition from dark, to medium to bright. They human eye will always look for balance. If we place 4 objects in a shot then the brain is confused about where to focus and prioritise on.
Nothing better than having leading lines to guide the viewer’s eye into the shot and towards your subject.
I love using wide angle lenses and pointing them slightly down or getting down low into the ground to really emphasise the scale and depth of a composition. It’s also a really good way to create leading lines.
Extra tip: Diagonal leading lines create movement.
Framing has to be one my favourite ways of creating depth in a shot. Using the foreground and background elements to frame the subject of my shot can really create focus and balance. Everything just seems to be in the right place.
Nothing jumps more out to the eye than a white subject on a black background (other the other way). I love using darkness in my shots to remove distraction and focus the attention on a certain area: the lighter areas of a shot.
Almost always my subject will be in the most contrasting part of my image. Either in colour (opposing colours) or in brightness and darkness. Our eye is automatically drawn to these places. Pair this with strong leading lines, the golden ratio and a well framed and composed shot and you most certainly will have a good photo.
While those rules above are obviously not all the compositional rules out there, they are the ones I work with most of the time. These are the rules I actively follow (and break) when composing photographs.
I hope this episode and article have given you a little insight into ‘how I see’ when I’m shooting and what I’m looking for to create strong photographs.
What are you favourite rules of composition? Which ones do you usually follow or break when shooting? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and ideas with me!