The Digital Photo Guy

Why Composition is Important

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Composition, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Why Composition Matters

…it is seldom indeed that a composition which was poor when the picture was taken can be improved by reshaping it in the dark room. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I was shocked by a recent poll that found most amateur photographers believe composition is their strong suit. In my experience, composition is everyone’s weakest skill. How many can honestly say their photographs are as impactful and insightful as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams or Galen Rowell? The photos I’ve seen in workshops and online forums tend toward ordinary and uninspired.

Here’s a rejected photo from a recent shoot. Working with two new models in a genre (steampunk) that I had never even heard of, much less photographed, I was shooting fast and trying to keep up with the models’ concepts. This was a good idea (Megan protects the fuel supply a’la Mad Max) but poor execution due to poor composition. Notice how I cut off Megan’s right foot, scabbard and sword tip. With practice, it’s easy to nail the focus and exposure but composition changes with every photo.

In this next photo, the Center of Interest has changed to the intensity in Megan’s eyes. It’s no longer about telling a story but imparting emotion. The composition is about Megan’s eyes. I could have used a shallow depth of field and blurred the background because none of it matters, just the look in her eyes. The square formed by Megan’s right arm and sword work to frame her face and force the viewer to look into her eyes.

These are all compositional decisions I had to make during the shoot. Some worked, many failed and the rest needed Photoshop to guide the viewers’ eyes to the Center of Interest.

Composition is the single most important element in any work of art. To quote Ansel Adams, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” Don’t let your sharp photos fail due to a fuzzy concept. Register today for Gloria Hopkins’ Composition webinar on Wednesday, April 20. Know how and why each and every element in your photographs contribute to the impact of the photograph.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Gloria Hendren

    In the viewpoint – it makes a story captured by the model’s eyes, then you look in the back ground for more interest to match her emotions.

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