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The Delights of Composition
Here is a cheat sheet to help you remember my acronym for photographic composition. Please print this off and keep it with you as you go about your photography. I hope it's of help.
D = Don't divide!
Don't divide your photograph in the middle, either horizontally or vertically. Things like the horizon can easily divide an image. It's more powerful a composition if you place a horizontal line or vertical line in the image on a Leading Line (see later).
E = Edges
When framing your photograph take care that there's nothing poking in from the edges. Little trees or bushes, a part of a car or perhaps a part of a building. All these create a distraction. A messy edge is easy to clean up by better framing. Look at the edges carefully before taking the photo.
L = Leading Lines
If you divide your photo framing into thirds and, in your minds eye, run lines down those thirds and across them you'll be imagining Leading Lines. These are strong places to put important objects or your subject. Better to place it there than randomly in the frame. You may need to reposition the camera to make best use of these thirds.
I - Intersecting Lines
These are where the leading lines cross each other. If Leading Lines are a strong place for the subject then these Intersecting Lines are very strong. This can take me a long time to get right but time well spent when you print the photograph.
G = Good Contrast
All black and white photographs need decent contrast but Good Contrast is very helpful around your subject. It makes the subject stand out well and draws the eye to it. Look to get good subject contrast by moving around and looking at the background. Look for contrasting tonality with your subject.
H = Help the eye
Help the eye move through your image by running features up into the shot and trying to position elements that will keep the eye in the photo. This is one of the hardest composition rules but with practice you will find you get better and better at it. I usually place down my camera and go "walk about" the area of the shot looking for these interesting features. They can be things such as a path running through the shot, a road, a stream or river, even a lighter shade of foreground grass can lead the eye into the photograph and help the viewer start to enter the image.
T = Tone attracts
This means that tonal contrast is strong at attracting the eye in the image. This tonal contrast can be used to our advantage by either making the subject stand out strongly or even, as above, lead the eye into the photograph.
S = Simplicity and Stories break the rules
Sometimes you can break every rule because your image is so simple it shouts out as a good photograph. A strong story can mean the rules are thrown out, or a bold and emotional image. Basically, you can take some simple shots that are great.
These are not really rules but guidelines. They can be broken. But remember, they can make your photographs stand out in the crowd too so try them, learn them and use them when you can!