- Archives May 99
The Art of Photography
by Bobby McFall
Point and shoot, digital, medium
format, automatic, manualÉit doesnÕt matter what type of camera you use as long
as youÕre able to compose pictures that command attention and deliver your message.
Whether viewing a website or printed
material, our eyes are drawn to photographs first. For that reason, they must
introduce and accurately represent their corresponding text.
In general, good pictures result
from careful attention to some basic elements of composition Š and, in some
cases, more than a little luck. There is no "right" way to make a picture. Three
photographers recording the same scene may create equally appealing photographs
with entirely different composition.
When composing a picture, the most
important question you must ask is, "What message do I want my photograph to
Here are a few guidelines to get
- Point of Interest: Identify
a primary point of interest before taking the picture. When youÕve determined
which area is most important to you, you can compose to emphasize it.
- Viewpoint: You can often
change a picture dramatically by moving the camera up or down, or by stepping
to one side. One of the best ways to compose a prize-winning photograph is
to find a unique point of view.
- Simplicity: Be sure that
only the things you want your viewer to see appear in your picture. Background
clutter will garble your message. Imagine a photo intended to portray a serene,
"back to nature" setting. All integrity is lost when your viewerÕs eyes are
drawn to a power line intruding in the background. If you canÕt find an angle
that successfully isolates
your point of interest, use depth of field control to keep the background
out of focus.
- Contrast: A light subject
will have more impact when placed against a dark background and vice versa.
Contrast may be used for emphasis, but may become distracting if not carefully
- Framing: A "frame" in a
photograph is something in the foreground that leads the viewer into the picture,
or provides a sense of where the viewer is. For example, a pine bow framing
a mountain scene effectively places the viewer into the scene, causing their
eyes to meander through the entire view, just as you did when you composed
- Direction of movement:
When the subject is capable of movement, such as an animal or person, it is
best to leave space in front of the subject so it appears to be moving into,
rather than out of the photograph.
- Balance: As a rule, asymmetric
or informal balance is considered more pleasing in a photograph than symmetric
balance. Place the main subject off-center for a more effective end result.
- Rule of Thirds: This is
perhaps the most important principle in distinguishing a good photograph from
a "snapshot". The rule of thirds is based on the theory that the eye goes
naturally to a point about two thirds up a page. Also, by visually dividing
the image into thirds, either vertically or horizontally, you achieve the
informal or asymmetric balance mentioned above.
The most important thing to remember
is that your photograph must tell a story that accurately corresponds with your
message content. Careful composition will capture your readerÕs interest and
enhance your message. In upcoming Techniques issues, watch for more photographic