What is Photography Composition?
It’s a fair question. Photography composition, I believe, is a lot like Jell-o. If you hold onto it too tightly it will ooze and get away from you. The concept can be as simple as a rudimentary ‘rule’ or as complex as a mind-numbing dissertation.
In case you haven’t picked this up from me yet, I like to simplify things and make them a bit more fun and understandable. Let’s give this a whirl.
Yes, photography composition does have rules that can be applied to many images and create satisfying results, but it goes much further than just rules. Composing an image is really about you, the photographer, telling your story. Every image you create is a piece of you, your spirit, your energy, your creativeness, your vision.
Photographic composition is all about making decisions, thinking, questioning, wondering, and exploring, and this involves refinement. To get to the well composed images, a photographer must refine the image and perhaps more importantly, them self.
Let me share an example with you of how I refine my photo making process until I feel I’ve produced a well-composed image. The top photo of the coin-operated viewer and the Statue of Liberty was not the ‘one’ shot I made that day. I started by making many ‘ordinary’ images and exploring. I searched for things to put in the foreground, reflections, humor, and then I explored different angles and extreme layouts. As I played and created, my inner creative spirit began asking thee all important question ~ “What if?”.
Even once I found the composition I really liked with the coin-operated viewer and the statue, I further refined the image by playing with angles and the depth of field. I made the decision, in ‘my story’, to let Lady Liberty go out of focus in a shallow, bokeh-filled depth of field. I adjusted the exposure to richen the saturation of color and make the image pop. Could I have gone further? Sure. But for me, I was satisfied that I created an image that wasn’t so obvious, showed my creativity, and I could be proud sharing with others (i.e. you).
Once you get passed the ordinary and start applying a method, photo composition becomes much easier and more natural. Yes, there are many great photography compositional rules which need to be utilized, and the ‘process’ of creating an image is equally as important to the overall success of a photograph.
In a nut shell, photographic composition is combining known rules, processes, and most importantly your personal creative input together to consistently produce images that meet your personal expectations or goals.