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Saturday, May 1, 2004

Compose Like The Pros

Practice these 10 tips for creating stronger and more dramatic photographs

Taking cues from the great classic painters, photographers have learned that composition is more than just where you place your subject. Lighting, perspective and contrast each plays a role in creating a stunning image. And the truth is that we all can learn to use them. It comes down to training ourselves to look for and recognize those elements in a scene.

The Outdoor Photographer editors have compiled 10 compositional tips that will not only improve your photographs, but open your eyes to another way of seeing as well.

Compose Like The Pros1) Emphasizing The Highlights
Our eyes are always drawn to the brightest part of a photograph. Use this to your advantage when composing. A close-up of a flower hit by a shaft of light produces a more dramatic image than if that same subject was photographed in the shade of a tree. While the first image results in the flower standing out from the darker background, the other image's flat lighting emphasizes the entire scene rather than a specific element. Look for contrast in the light and then compose around the brightest part of the scene.

The difference in exposure between the brightly lit subject and background can be anywhere between one or more stops, so an accurate exposure is necessary. Use your camera's center-weighted or spot meter to read just your subject. If using a digital camera, use the histogram display to ensure that your highlights aren't overexposed. Expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may.—IP

Compose Like The Pros  2) Repeating Patterns
Repetitive patterns in a subject or a scene can make an effective composition. Whether it's the veins of an individual leaf or an endless field of poppies, these elements offer an attractive subject for photography.

There are patterns everywhere, from the repeating design left in the sand by the receding waves of the ocean or a stand of aspens in the early-morning sun. In any case, isolate the patterns when framing the subject, and fill the frame with the pattern. For close-ups, use a macro lens that allows you to eliminate distracting background elements. A telephoto lens can achieve similar results with more expansive scenes.

Use sidelight or backlight to emphasize textural patterns. Translucent subjects with a strong design element, such as leaves and flowers, can be enhanced greatly by backlighting using existing light or a small strobe.—IP

Repeating Patterns 3) Using The Edges
Most photographers know the rule of thirds—divide the frame into thirds, horizontally and vertically, and place your subject at the junction of one of these divisions. However, push the limits of your composition by placing your subject even closer to the edges of the frame, such as at the extreme right or bottom of your frame, and get a sense of how it looks. With digital cameras, you immediately can see how such a choice affects your composition. Try both horizontal and vertical shots to help you achieve a successful image.—IP




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