Composition

 

author: Bradley Wilson


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Composition
Just as the writer must find the right
words and arrange them in the right
order, the photographer must find the…

right elements and arrange them in a
pleasing manner.
“Composition is merely the strongest way of seeing.”
Edward Weston
“Some photographers claim there are no rules for
composition or arranging material in the frame. In the
final analysis, they may be right. No rule applies all
the time.”
John Morris, Guide to Photography
Composition
Composition is
intuitive and resists
categorization; refers to
the arrangements of the
elements in the picture.
Photo by ROB MATTSON
By Bradley Wilson
wilsonbrad@aol.com
2 •-REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY FALL 2002
Move up close
Fill the frame for
impact; the top mistake
beginning photographers
make is not moving up
close enough.
Auburn resident Kaye Cantrell, a former Western employee, reflects on the car accident that left her paralyzed. This photo by H. RICK MACH of the College
Heights Herald (Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Ky.; Robert Adams, adviser) exemplifies moving up close to fill the frame.
This photo by HEATHER HOUST of Capital High School (Boise,
Idaho; Vicki Francis, adviser) is a good example of how moving up
close and filling the frame can increase the photo’s impact. In addition
to keeping the focus on the subject that dominates the photo,
moving up close helps to simplify the background.
FALL 2002 REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY •-3
Center of Visual
Interest
Control where the eye
goes first; a dominant
element in the photograph
This photo by KODY THOMAS of Bella Vista High School (Marianne Schaffeld, adviser) is a good example of having a strong center of visual interest. Low
depth of field helps draw the viewer to the boys on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif.
This photo
by TARA
MONROE;
Belen High
School (New
Mexico,
Albert
Martinez,
adviser)
shows how
a simple
background
and a
foreground
element can
draw the
viewer into
the main
subject.
4 •-REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY FALL 2002
Rule of Thirds
Divide the frame into
thirds both horizontally.
Place the subject at the
intersection of any two
lines.
This photo by JONATHAN LEWIS of The Exposure yearbook (Scott County High School, Georgetown, Ky.; Steve Traynor, adviser) exemplifies use of
the Rule of Thirds with the primary subjects in the upper left corner. The face of the girl in the upper right corner also functions as a foreground element
to draw the viewer into the picture.
A Muslim
kneels in
prayer at
the Islamic
Center of
Cleveland
after the
events of
Sept. 11,
2001. This
photo by KIM
MANSAGER
of Lakewood
Times
(Lakewood
High School,
Ohio; John
Bowen,
adviser) also
exemplifies
the Rule of
Thirds.
FALL 2002 REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY •-5
Leading Lines
Lines direct the viewer’s
attention to the center
of visual interest
The lines and repetition of the contes pull the
viewer into this Salt Lake City Olympic skater.
Photo by JOSH MERWIN.
In this photo by MATT STAMEY of the Royal Purple
yearbook (Kansas State University, Manhattan,
Kan.; Linda Puntney, adviser), a man walks
up the entrance ramp of the Kansas State Fair
Grandstand to get a better view of the Midway.
The ramp functions as a series of leading lines.
The viewer’s eye follows the ramp up to the man
in white. Because the eye is drawn to light areas,
the lines and light shade draw the viewer right to
the subject.
6 •-REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY FALL 2002
Framing
Use an element in the
foreground to function
as a ’frame” for the
subject.
Firefighter Dale Skiles checks for hot spots after
the fire had been put out. The financial losses
made this blaze the worst in Modesto City School
district’s history. It began in the wall between
a classroom and a restroom. This photo by
ANDREA SCOTT of The Shield (Thomas Downey
HS, Modesto, Calif.; John Haley Scott, adviser)
illustrates good use of framing.
Senior Shannon Howard reads from the
teleprompter while being tapes for the Veteran’s
Day video. The video was a combined effort
between the video productions class and the
newspaper production class. This photo by
LINDSEY NELSON, of Hoover High School
(North Canton, Ohio; Pamela McCarthy, adviser)
illustrates excellent use of a foreground element
functioning as a frame.
FALL 2002 REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY •-7
Creative angles
Move around; get down
low and look up on
the subject or get up
high and look down;
change viewpoints particularly
to control the
background.
Photographer EMMA JUNEKE of Torrey
Pines High School (San Diego, Calif.) had
to get down low to photograph this biker.
Likewide, photographer CHRISTINE DRUD
shot this picture of Mate Lusic repairing his
car in Vrbanj, Croatia. Getting down low
and shooting up through the car made the
subject more dramatic.
8 •-REPRINTED FROM COMMUNICATION: JOURNALISM EDUCATION TODAY FALL 2002
The repetition of the winning swimmers in this photo by
CHRISTINA SANTILLI of JW North High School (Riverside,
Calif.; Kathy Rossi, adviser) draws the viewer in as does
the emotion in the swimmers’ faces.
Photo by MIKE SHEPHERD, Topeka Capital-Journal
Thomas Clay, 9, lines up for the national anthem
with the Hays Larks prior to the start of the 2000
National Baseball Congress World Series championship
game in Wichita, Kan. The Liberal Bee
Jays defeated Hays in the first all-Kansas championship
matchup in the NBC history. Photo by MIKE
SHEPHERD, Topeka Capital-Journal. Repetition
of Shapes
Repetition can really
draw a viewer into
a picture, but it’s
often the break in the
repetition that proves
interesting.

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