How to Compose in Landscape Photography

How to Compose in Landscape Photography

  • There's no mystique involved in composing landscape pictures, and even the most visually naive and unaware snap-shooters compose images every time they take a picture. Those lucky enough to have a natural eye for composition can look through the viewfinder and instantly arrange the landscape elements into a pleasing and harmonious pattern. Some of these photographers have no formal education, and absolutely no knowledge of the ground rules of composition. How is it, then, that their photographs conform so precisely to time-honored laws of composition?

  • The reason is simple: compositional guidelines are not an arbitrary framework dreamed up by a committee of stuffy academics. Many of the rules have evolved through centuries of study of what makes images pleasing to the eye. This century has added a second branch of knowledge - scientific studies have explored the psychology of vision, how we look at pictures, and how we mentally synthesize the original scene from the photographic image.

  • For the vast majority of us who are not blessed with photographic "perfect pitch", an understanding of the formal rules of composition and perspective is a valuable aid. These compositional rules provide a framework, scaffolding that can help you to construct your own unique vision of landscape. They also provide a kind of official code - a system to which viewers expect your pictures to conform. So if you aim to make landscape images that shock or unsettle the viewer, you can alter the formal rules of composition and use them as a means to disturb. Your pictures won't suddenly and dramatically improve if you slavishly follow the rules of composition and perspective. But armed with knowledge of them, and taking into account the demands of the subject and the mood you seek to create, you will find it easier to take effective pictures.

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