Composition Rules OK?

April 15, 2021  •  1 Comment

Blog 21 04 15 Composition Rules OKBlog 21 04 15 Composition Rules OK

Apart from the grafitti tag which originated in 1970’s Britain, there is a serious question to be asked concerning “rules” of composition. I am not qualified to make an academic critique of the many guidelines for framing an image, whether in photography or in other visual arts. However, having been fascinated since adolescence by the work of  painters, particularly artists of the Dutch schools and the Impressionists, I have schooled myself in an aesthetic which is deeply personal and very important to me. If it has to be characterised, I would call it “classic graphic”.

We are all emotionally satisfied or dissatisfied by images, whether or not we make a conscious analysis of them. It is either visually appealing or it is not, in ways which will vary for all of us as individuals. At first glance , it will be received as more or less peaceful or distracting because of its content, but subsequently it will touch the viewer at a deeper level, because of the way in which that content was portrayed.

Beauty is universal, I believe, but composition is a purely human discipline concerning how images of small segments of reality are constructed. Formal analysis identifies such solutions as: symmetry, balance, pattern, repetition, simplicity, complexity, inclusion, exclusion, the  Golden Ratio, the Rule of Thirds and, simply, the orientation of the camera. Each might contribute to making the work pleasing or displeasing to the viewer.

Personal Taste

I personally ignore these specific tools, trying to order the image according to my self-taught view of what is pleasing and “graphic”: my shorthand expression for impact, order and balance. I want the eye to flow into and around the image, led by decisions that I have made about how to create and then treat the content. The first decision is, of course, taken prior to image capture, where my aesthetic “juices” have been stimulated by sight of a subject, in anything from an  immense landscape down to an individual object. The image has to resonate with my personal aesthetic and “sing” in my mind. Any image that I choose to make, resonates with me as if it were visual music. It excites me even before I raise the camera to my eye. When I am “in the zone”, hours disappear without me being aware of it.

Choices

My challenge is how to successfully communicate it to others and express this personal visual satisfaction through the treatment I give it “in-camera”. Although this is the beginning of imposing technical limitations onto an idea, it can also result in the enhancement of a scene by the opportunity of using a different instrument than my own eyes. 

Given the possible range of options provided by the equipment I am carrying, this therefore starts with adjusting where I am to optimise the effect I need to achieve. For instance, absent a long lens, I would move “into” the scene, so as to capture it in a more tight frame. Moving around, even by only inches, turning a little and changing the height of the camera can create major benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, such moving may require a hike of many hours or require climbing walls or some street furniture. Finally, having decided to capture the image, the orientation of the camera itself has a major  impact on the scene.

When blessed by a large and heavy camera bag, many other visualizing options make themselves available, by using the characteristics of alternatives from small focal length, prime lenses to “large” focal length lenses and zooms. 

Cropping

Finally, the most subtle option is offered in post-processing, using the crop functions. In this case, I am betraying the example of Cartier-Bresson, my photographic guide, who would not stoop to such a procedure in order to save an image that was not perfect “in-camera”. Although I do not presume to attain his level of artistry, I have to admit my guilty secret that I immensely enjoy making these artistic decisions, using finely tuned software.

I am sure that anyone reading this could have extremely different views, while achieving wonderful results. If you do, please let’s start a conversation. 

Settings

Camera: Nikon D300

Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8

Focal Length: 78mm

Drive Mode: Single Shot

Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single

Aperture: f/3.5

Shutter Speed: 1/15s

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority A/E

Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV

Metering: Centre-weighted average

ISO Sensitivity: 1250

Tripod mounted

Format: Raw

Place : La Grande Arche, La Défense, Paris

Year: 2008

 

Copyright Paul Grayson 2021 All Rights Reserved

 


Comments

Eric Bontemps(non-registered)
Graphisme et cadrage au top ! On dirait une radiographie ou un négatif. La finesse des lignes est impressionnante.
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