01/09/2006

Composition design (Part 4)


Previously, we started to look at some of the elements that are used either individually, or collectively, to build our composition. Just as a reminder, they were light, colour, shape, form, framing and lines. Another element we can use is people, believe it or not. But I will explain that one a little later.
We started with the first of these - light.
Before continuing, however, I am not going to go into all the technicalities of light. If you really want to build your knowledge on this particular subject, I suggest you read up on it further from other online sources. These notes are merely a guide to help you understand what practical photography is all about, without going into all that unnecessary technical jargon and hopefully, it will help in some way.
Back to the subject of light.


The angle, direction and intensity of light, be it from off the shoulder, backlighting (contre-jour), where the light source is ahead of the photographer rather than behind, or from left or right, it does have a major influence on how images are produced.
In black and white photography the controlled use of light is even more vitally important than colour photography because, in black and white photography, light takes the place of colour.
It is very interesting to see how the classic artists take advantage of and exploit light, to enhance their paintings. You can get some good ideas on this simply by visiting your local art gallery, or by looking through magazines.
You can find more on "light" and the "right light" in the Blog index listing.
Colour is another vital element which we can use to our advantage in the building of our composition and it will be the topic of our next discussion.
Colour can either make or break an image, so the way in which we utilise colour is very important.
If, for instance, the main centre of interest, or subject, in our photograph is say, pale in colour, but there is some other object of lesser importance that is bright red, where do you think the eyes of the viewer are going to head straight for when scanning our photograph? So, in this case, colour can be a major distraction and red can be the most distracting or attracting colour of all, but not far behind, is a lot of other bright colours, including reflections and bright spots. Generally, dull, neutral tones and pastels are the least attracting.
To express this further, imagine you are taking a photograph of a glorious sunset across a valley. When you put your photos up on a larger screen, much to your horror and disgust, you suddenly notice there is a house with a bright red roof down in the valley, which you hadn't noticed when you were composing the shot and you say to yourself, "Damn, that wasn't there when I took the photograph, where did that come from?"
So unless you can crop it or clone it out, or use your photo editing program to change the colour of the roof, it will always be a distracting element in the photograph.
As I said earlier, light can also play tricks like that with bright spots, and they too can be nasty little distractions.


So when you look through your viewfinder, before you shoot, always be aware that the camera sees all, a lot more than you. In fact, it sees every minute detail within its range of view.
Light and colour, however, can go hand in hand in the construction of your composition and light will enhance the brightness of colour in an image. For example, light filtering through treetops will intensify the colour of freshly fallen autumn leaves, or brighten flower heads or bird plumage.
Yes, light and colour can be good or bad elements, so treat them with the respect they deserve and as always use your viewfinder or camera screen to scan the scene for any unwanted elements before you proceed to press the shutter button.




Now for part 5, "Shapes".