Photography Composition

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Things to Avoid in Composition

27.09.2007 Category: Photography Composition
One usually tries to compose the elements of a photograph in a pleasing and interesting way. Often one tries to utilize certain rule or style that has been verified to work. Picture composition can be approached also from another perspective. When composing a photo one can think about things that should be avoided in the composition. In my opinion, once the good composition has been found, one should check certain things that can generally speaking be considered as mistakes in image composition.

Distractions on the Edge

A photo of a cat where is a distracting element on the edge of the photo

Picture 1. Photo above is clean otherwise but the chair feet in the top right corner are distracting and steal attention from the subject itself.

Clean photograph of a cat

Picture 2. Without the chair feet the photo is cleaner and the subject gets more attention.

Always when composing a photograph one should observe the edges of the frame and look for elements that might be distracting and steal attention from the subject itself. Picture 1 is an example of this kind of situation. The feet of the chair in the upper right corner stand out well. They steal some attention from the cat and lead the eye of the viewer away from the photo. Picture 2 is fixed version of the same photo. Picture 2 is cleaner and the eye of the viewer stays better inside of the photograph.

Background of the Subject

A photo where a butterfly merges with the background

Picture 3. In the photo above the upper part of the butterfly wing merges with the flower in the background. Because of that the butterfly doesn't come up as well as possible.

A clear photo of a swallowtail

Picture 4. In this photo the butterfly is completely on the blue background and stands up well from the background.

One should always pay attention to the background of the photographed subject. Sometimes there are elements behind the subject that merge with the subject like in the picture 3. The wing of the butterfly and the flower in the background overlap as if forming one unity. Better way to compose the butterfly is to find cleaner a background for it like in the picture 4. In picture 4 the wing doesn't merge with the background and the form of the subject stands out more. While composing a subject one should ask the following questions:

One way to separate subject and background is the use of complementary colors. Complementary colors are well distinguishable from each other and strengthen each other. Another method to emphasize the subject is to use textures. A subject with complicated texture stands out well from background with simple texture. A subject with simple texture stands out well from background with complicated texture.

Kissing Edges in Photographs

A portrait with kissing edges

Picture 5. In the photo above the horizon is in the same line with the edge of the subject. These kind of kissing edges should usually be avoided.

A portrait

Picture 6. In this photo the horizon is clearly upper than the edge of the subject. The photo is cleaner and easier to look at.

In picture 5 the horizon and the upper edge of the subject are exactly in the same line. These kind of kissing edges should usually be avoided by placing the edges to different locations. The situation in picture 6 is better. In picture 6 the horizon is clearly upper than the edge of the subject. Also situations where edges of the subject kiss the edges of the photo should usually be avoided.

Avoiding Mistakes

The mistakes mentioned above can be avoided and removed in several ways. The first step is to pay attention to these things when taking a photograph. When the possible mistakes are known they can be removed by using the following methods:

1. Change the Angle

The easiest way to remove the mistakes mentioned above is to change the angle. One can often avoid these mistakes with a slight change in camera angle. The subject can be photographed for example from another direction or from another distance.

2. Modify the Scene

Sometimes mistakes can be avoided by modifying the scene. What I mean is that, for example in the situation of picture 1 the chair could possibly have been replaced before taking the photo. Of course there would have been a risk because the cat might have moved away.

3. Use Digital Image Processing

Also digital image processing can be used to remove the mistakes mentioned above. The photo can be cropped or it can be modified for example by using the Clone Stamp tool.

There are often small mistakes in photographs which are found at the latest when someone looks for them. By knowing the possible mistakes beforehand one can avoid them.