The four dimensional world that exists in front of a camera lens is a very different reality than the resulting two-dimensional depiction in a photographic image. It is the transformation process that creates exciting opportunities for expression and personal interpretation of the world. As photographers we often discuss the limitations of thephotographic process, it is the limitations of the process that create and allow for the creative expression in a photograph. Our ability to recognize and conform the “limitations” of the photographic process to a large extent determines our success in creating interesting and compelling images.
The first and foremost lesson that most beginners need to learn is: EVERYTHING THAT IS IN THE VIEWFINDER AT THE MOMENT THE IMAGE IS MADE WILL BE RECORDED ON THE FILM, AND HENCE BE A PART OF THE FINAL IMAGE. As simple as this sounds it is a major obstacle faced by many beginning photographers. I cannot remember how many times I have heard during critique sessions “I didn’t see that when I took the picture.”
Every object that is included in the viewfinder must be visually dealt with as part of the overall composition. This can be a daunting task, as that little viewfinder can portray very complex and large parts of the world around us. Usually the photographer’s primary task is to simplify the composition of the image to only include those elements or objects that create the feeling or message that the photographer wants to convey in the final image.
On the other hand the final image must engage the viewer and give them something that they can look at for an extended time. Creating a visual tension between two or more competing visual elements or objects within the photograph usually does this. Lets look at some techniques to achieve this.
The rule of thirds:
Like most rules in art this rule is made to be broken, never the less it is a good idea to know the rule so we can break it when we see fit to do so. The rule of thirds divides the frame of the image into 9 equal parts. If we draw the proportional frame of a 35mm image it looks like this:
A 35mm image frame divided into thirds looks like this:
The rule of thirds states that visual lines created by horizon lines or other visual elements that bisect the frame should fall on or near the lines that divide the frame into thirds. Further, intersecting lines in the image or objects that are placed in the frame should be placed at the point where the third lines intersect within the frame.
The resulting image has a much more dynamic look or feel to it as opposed to an image made with lines that bisect in the middle of the frame like this:
Remember; this simple rule can always be broken, but in a general way should always be considered when composing an image.