Found Photo Friday: Composition

Happy Friday, everyone!

Today I want to chat about an interesting conversation I had last week about photo composition. A classmate asked me about composition saying that she understood why it was important and the rule of thirds and the theory of it, but not how to do it. She wanted more than just the broad strokes that we have all heard before. She wanted to know details on how to make good composition happen.

I looked at her with what I know must have been a completely blank stare as I realized that I didn’t know how to answer that question. There were a few other people in the room, pretty talented photographers themselves, and we all gave variations on the same answer:

You know it when you see it.

This is a photo I took several years ago when I was just starting this whole camera business. I still use it in my photography portfolio because I was happy with how it came out, primarily because of the composition.

I wished that I could give her a better answer, but it’s true. There are lots of rules for making good composition, but with any kind of art, rules are made to be broken. There wouldn’t be anything new and interesting, otherwise. We would just have a lot of images that look the same. You can learn what makes good composition, but it takes practice. Some people are lucky and have a good eye for composition and light right off the bat, but even those lucky artists must practice to be able to have consistently successful work. That’s why Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst”. Every artist, no matter the innate talent, no matter the medium, needs and will benefit from constant practice. Someone can teach you the “rules”, but no one can teach you how to see. You’ll know it when you see it, though a seemingly unsatisfactory answer, might have been the best advice we could give.

I’ve included these images from my own portfolio to illustrate a little of what I mean. The photo above has a fairly standard composition while not being a dull, stamen shot (not that I’m against stamen shots, they can just be a bit generic). This one, however, has a slightly more unexpected structure, but it still works. The unexpected can add interest even though it doesn’t adhere to a rule.

From a shoot by the Chatahoochee River.

What do you guys think makes a good composition? Do you know of a good way to explain composition? I’d love to hear your thoughts and see some examples in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading. Check in at the beginning of the week for some new originals!

Have a wonderful weekend!

-DH

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