How to control composition in camera photography?

  • Composition in photography is the way an object is placed in relation to the background, or the way a group of objects are arranged in relation to one another and the background. In a good composition the elements of the picture are positioned to give the picture as a whole a unified effect.

  • Nature arranges things in its own way, and the trick of a photographer is to compose his pictures carefully out of nature s arrangements. Often one or more objects are -moving in relation to the background. Birds might be flying across a landscape or horses galloping around a race track. In situations of this kind I take several pictures in quick succession, and then choose the best one.

  • Above all, patience is required. You can't arrive at a place, quickly snap a picture, and go home expecting it to be a great shot (although this does happen sometimes). If there's time, good results are usually obtained after thoroughly studying the locale, getting into the mood of it, and finding the best angles from which the most interesting elements of a scene could be photographed. Furthermore, when photographing something specific like the facade of a historic building, it is helpful to know the time of day when the light is at its best and when the shadows might add rather than detract from the particular effect you are after.

  • When photographing fast-moving subjects or candid portraits, you seldom have time for careful composition. Under these circumstances a picture can often be improved by cropping in the final print. Ideally, however, the picture should be carefully composed in the camera at the time of shooting, especially when taking color slides.

  • There are no rules for composition except good judgment and taste. The more one photographs, the more one becomes aware of balancing light areas with dark ones, large objects with small. I found that studying the work of great painters was most helpful in training me to be aware of good composition.

  • Also, the more one reviews one's owns work, the more one comes to recognize which pictures are dramatic, which are flat, and what makes them so. There is no real substitute for experience - in other words, learning trial and error.

More information about camera composition

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