Without rules, there would be chaos. Yet, without chaos, sometimes the art cannot be created. There are “rules” in photography, but they are more like guidelines, meant to be bent, meant to be broken, in the name of artistic freedom and expression. And with composition in photography, the rules/guidelines are definitely subjective. I may frame an image with a lot of negative space, as per my personal photography style, and you may take the same photograph and arrange it in a completely different manner. Thus is the beauty of art and photography.
Composition is simply the placement of elements in an image. Our eyes prefer order over chaos and there are basic things we can do to draw the eye to an image and thereby making the image more pleasing. It is best that you learn these as rules to start and then once they become second nature, look at them as guidelines to help you create your own vision and art.
The COOPH video below will give you 9 basic guidelines for photo composition, using world renowned photojournalist, Steve McCurry‘s incredible photographs as examples. If you have never heard of Steve McCurry, you’d likely recognize his iconic photographs, and his famous ‘Afghan Girl’ image that appeared first in National Geographic.
The 9 rules begins with the most basic and widely known, Rule of Thirds, and moves to lesser known rules like placing the dominant eye of your subject in the center of the photograph. Even if you knew all 9 rules like the back of your hand, this 3 minute video is worth a watch just to enjoy the beauty of Steve’s photographs, which will inspire and mesmerize you, and make you long to know the back story of each and every image. This is the sign of a brilliant photographer – a visual storyteller.
The end of the video offers this nugget of wisdom from Steve,
The composition is important, but also, rules are meant to be broken, so the main point is to enjoy yourself while you’re photographing and photograph in your own way and your own style.
Watch 9 Photo Composition Tips (feat. Steve McCurry)
Many thanks to COOPH for sharing this video with us.