Photography is an art form, yet as photographers, we’re at a great disadvantage. A painter can approach a scene and build in dramatic light, an impending storm, a howling wolf set upon a rocky precipice, or a bald eagle swooping from the water with trout held firmly in talons. A photographer on the other hand starts with a canvas that’s already painted and has to eliminate distractions within the scene. A photographer has to find serenity amongst chaos and confusion and has to wait for quintessential events to unfold and be lucky enough they do. So how does a photographer find pleasing compositions within all this complexity?
In any photo, the subject will be the first element to attract the viewer’s attention. Ideally, the supporting details will lead the viewer around the photo while at the same time, enhance the center of interest. If the subordinate details work in harmony with the main subject, the picture will show balance and be deemed successful. A poorly composed photo will confuse the viewer and lose his interest.
Good composition starts with choosing a good subject. The subject should inspire the photographer. If the subject isn’t intriguing, chances are the photo will reflect this. What it is that provoked you to raise the camera to your eye? Was it a strong color, the shape or texture, an interesting face or was it emotional? The final composition should be dictated by the answers to these questions.
Once a good subject is chosen, selectively eliminate all distractions that impede the viewer from focusing on the center of interest. Decide what should be photographed and emphasize that aspect while viewing the scene through the camera. Study the setting and decide if what you’ve seen with the naked eye is conveyed through the lens. As you continue to ask yourself questions about what attracted you to the subject, conclude whether or not you’ve gotten to the root of the attraction. Persevere in your quest to eliminate unnecessary elements by moving to the left, right, higher or lower until all is finely tuned. Deciding what to exclude is equally as important as knowing what to include.