5 Basic Compositional Theories | Transcription

Let’s talk about our different compositional theories. The first one I wanted to talk about, actually, was symmetry. It can be somewhat close to a bull’s eye, but it’s more of a planned bull’s eye. There are scenes, for example … I’ve seen awesome landscape shots where the horizon line is on the center because the sky is equally as awesome as the ground and you have these awesome leading lines down a pathway. It’s symmetrical. It doesn’t have to be that way to be symmetrical. Basically, symmetrical is just when you have equal components, top, bottom, left, right. You have that symmetry to it. What kind of situations do you typically do symmetry type compositions?

If my image has a lot of geometry to it, leading lines, circles, something that just feels really balanced and good balance, and can present a strong geometric kind of image, then symmetry is pretty good, and so is just the bull’s eye idea, actually. Things like architectural stuff, bridges, things that have that kind of natural symmetry built into it, look absolutely awesome when you use that rule. That’s symmetry. Now, let’s talk about the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is based on the golden ratio. This is probably the most overused of photographic compositions. Here’s the thing. It’s overused why? Because it really works.

You can watch any Hollywood movies and that’s all I could think about. “Oh, rule of thirds. Oh, rule of thirds.” Literally every single shot is rule of thirds. Rule of thirds is great because you can frame your subject in one spot, on that one-third, and you leave two-thirds of that open space to really set the scene for it.

When are you typically using rule of thirds? I actually use it for a lot of things. I watch my horizon lines so that it’s on the bottom third or the top third. I use it for portraiture, even. I find that a lot of my images are either left-heavy or right-heavy, because it feels good to me.

You mentioned an interesting thing with the horizon line, putting it at the bottom third or the top third. One way that I decide that is really just based on what’s more interesting on that particular day. If I’m out at the beach, and I’m shooting, say, a couple on the beach, if that particular day we have amazing clouds, what do you think I do? Expose more of the clouds. I go one-third ground, two-thirds clouds, because that’s more interesting part of the shot. If the clouds are just “Eh” for the day, or there’s no clouds, or just doesn’t look good, I go two-thirds ground, because that’s more interesting and where the story is.

I also like to, especially with portraits and things like that, frame them, even regardless of the distance, on that one-third line generally gives really nice shots to show those environmental portraits too.

Actually, if you look at the faces, they’re composed the same way as well. The most interesting and important part of a face to communicate emotion is in the eyes, which is actually on the top third. If you were to zoom in and do a portrait shot, it’s easy to say that the eyes should be on that top third, and it makes a very interesting photo.

Rule of thirds is a great technique. Just because it’s used a lot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. The next of our five basic compositional theories is leading lines. This is another one of my favorites, and it’s really a great one. You can have a shot that has symmetry, it’s also using rule of thirds, it’s also using leading lines. You can mix and match.

Basically, leading lines are when your lines in your scene are naturally leading into the subject. This is one of my favorite things to look for, just because it adds so much interest to a shot. You have all these lines pulling right into one little spot. It brings the viewer’s eyes down to that place. When do you usually look for these kind of shots?

You know, I use it everywhere. In weddings, for example, it’s really easy. Using the aisle to direct the eye, it’s almost like just a dotted line of arrows telling you where to look.

Exactly. I can think of one shot just recently. Last week I did an engagement shot, and I saw this bridge. It was a bridge, but it had this silver … We’ll show the image. It had this silver top to it. The bridge itself looks pretty crappy, but if you get down low and shoot up, you have these crazy leading lines.

Basically, I got down low, placed the couple in the left corner, and I used the leading lines from the bridge to pull all the way into the couple, and you end up with this really cool composition that you wouldn’t get otherwise. That one’s more of a negative space plus rule of thirds, because we had them in the left third as well. You guys can check out that shot.

Leading lines are awesome for fences, aisles, lines that are natural in architecture. Look for these kind of things that can really draw attention into your actual subject. By the way, we’ve been using a lot of portrait examples, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be the subject. The subject could be really anything that you use leading lines to draw attention to.

Leading lines don’t have to be just straight lines, either. They can be spirals. Let’s say that shot where you’re looking down on a spiral staircase, and you’re directing the eye to look down into your subject. Those are great leading lines as well. Absolutely. I’ve seen great photographs where they use street signs and arrows placed in certain areas that point to the actual subject in the photograph. Those are awesome as well. All are just building on that same idea of leading the eye in the composition over to the actual subject. Think about it as connecting the dots to your subject.

Now, number four is triangles and geometry, and it has a piece of leading lines in there. Triangles and geometry is a big part of architectural photographs. Not really just in shooting architecture by itself, but also, when you’re shooting portraits in an architectural kind of scene. Also, triangles on the body. I actually use that a lot, especially in glamour and just female portraiture. There’s something about triangles and V’s that are very flattering. For example, I am sitting this way for a reason, because it creates leading lines and it frames the body properly. Exactly. Lots of triangles. For some reason, scientific studies show triangles to be very interesting to look at. You’ll see it all the time in fashion, in everything. In boudoir, in all that kind of stuff you’re posing. Just even basic composition. If we look at, for example, Japanese botanical gardens, where they do the three thing, it’s triangles, really, is what it is. There’s a low, middle, and high, and it teaches your eye to emphasize.

Geometry is another one of those compositional theories that’s great to look for in any scene, creating triangles. The other thing it does, too, that I forgot to mention is we actually show it a lot when we’re posing our model. We create space with triangles. Bringing our model’s arm off the side of her hip so it’s not flat against her, it creates space, it creates an opening. In addition to making it more interesting to look at, it also slims down the appearance of arms and legs and so forth.

What about in groupings, as well? It changes levels of people, especially when you’ve got people of similar height. It’s easy to pose three or four people if you’re doing triangles with their height. Maybe one’s seated, one’s standing up, and one’s leaning, so you’re creating interesting in their lines. One’s seated, one mid-height, and then one a little bit higher.

Let’s go to number five, and that’s negative space. That’s something we referred to earlier. Negative space is just leaving basically part of the frame, a lot of the frame, open. I love negative space is one of my favorite compositional rules or theories, just because it creates so much … I don’t know, visual weight on the subject. Everything else in this image is just empty. I dig shots like that. We actually did a shot like that during the shoot where we did the shot of these balloons with our model. You can see that it’s very much a negative space shot.

Negative space, to me … There’s two types. There’s one where it’s just empty color, empty sky, whatever it is, it’s just empty. Then there’s another type of negative space that’s just … It could be patterned. The subject’s a very small piece, and it’s just some sort of other pattern in the other side, where there’s something in that space, kind of like that first downtown shot that we described. There’s something there, but it leads into the subject and it is just empty space. It takes your focus away from nothing but your subject, I guess is what it does. Kind of like music. There’s a lot of heavy usefulness in silence. When do you use negative space? All the time. I seem to be using all these five things all the time. I use it for portraiture a lot, or just when I really want to clear out my image. I’ll actually use shadows more than light to fill in with negative space. One of my favorite things about negative space, too, is that if you are creating additional products, it’s editorial. If you’re doing thank-you cards, if you’re doing whatever, anything. Any type of additional product where you might put text, negative space is a must-have. When you’re publishing in a magazine, they want to pick images … Or if you’re trying to get published in a magazine, especially if it’s editorial. They want to pick images that they can place text next to. I should say probably more commercial use, because you’d basically place an advertisement or whatever it is, or for, say, a thank-you card for a couple.They would have them in one area, and you’d have open space to place the text so that that text isn’t over an area that’s busy in the photograph. It works extremely well in those kind of cases where you want to place text or an advertisement or whatever it is. Simple is definitely better.

These are the five basic compositional theories that we wanted to go over in this video. Now, of course, if you’re interested in composition, really, there’s books and there’s incredible resources that dive completely into all these subjects. It’s fascinating to learn, but it’s really beyond the scope of this DVD, because you could read entire books on the subject of composition.

We’ve just scratched the surface. Try out these things. I think between these things, most of my images, probably 95% of them, would fall under one of the things that we described, if not basically all of them.

A good exercise would be when you’re flipping through images in a magazine, or through your own photos, see if you can identify one of these five items, or maybe all of them, or as many of them as you can. Teach your eye to learn about it, look for it, and then compose it yourself. It’s a good exercise.








Chapter 7: BONUS

Total Course Run Time: 6H 30M 21S