May 31, 2017 Christina Snyder 10Comment
6 min read

Last week we looked at Rule of Thirds, Rule of Odds, Balancing Elements, and Leading Lines in Part One of the Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography.

We discussed where to position your focal point when applying the Rule of Thirds, why odd numbers are more interesting to the eye than even, the two types of balance (symmetrical and asymmetrical), and how to utilize lines to draw the viewer’s eye to our subject matter.

Today, we start Part two of the Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography by exploring Patterns, Textures, and Background.

And we will wrap up our series next week by focusing on Depth, Depth of Field, Framing, and Cropping.

I want to remind you that if you’re like me, some of these compositions may come easily to you, in the sense that you already do it without even realizing you’re doing it.  Others may take time and practice to master.

**NEVER settle with your first shot.  ALWAYS take several pictures from multiple angles while testing out these natural photo effects.**

Elements of Composition for Photography

–Part Two

Previously, I stated that composition was basically how you framed your scene.  But for those of you looking for something beyond the basics, composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as a way to distinct from the subject of a work.  This concept isn’t just applied to photography either, but to all visual arts, music, dance, and literature.  You are not asked to make a judgment of the subject, simply to explore it.

Patterns

While repetition in your daily life can be a little boring – capturing it in your photography can create an image with real impact.

In most cases, repetition is a tool used to calm the viewer, making them feel comfortable and at peace while enjoying the view because the viewer can predict what to find while exploring the image.

Patterns are commonly used in two different ways, to create rhythm through repetition or to draw the eye to the subject matter by placing a break in the pattern.

Rinse and Repeat

Unified Patterns - Composition for Photography

Patterns and repetition can be found all around us in the world.  Think of spring when acres of freshly blooming crops line the horizon,  the ground at the beginning of the autumn season covered with pumpkin spiced colored leaves, or the unified waves that crest after a boat speeds by on the waterfront during the summer.

When you repeat a certain size or shape or color you create a pattern and add strength to the overall image.

Tips:  Filling your frame with a repetitive pattern can give the impression of size and large numbers.  The key to achieving this is to attempt to zoom in close enough to the pattern that it fills the frame and makes the repetition seem as though it’s bursting out.

Breaking the Rhythm

Break in Patterns - Composition for Photography

Pattern can become even more compelling when you break the rhythm.

This technique is often referred to as creating a “spot.”  The eye has a specific movement to follow then a focal point to fall upon, followed by a return to that harmonic rhythm.

Broken repetition might include adding a contrasting color, shape, texture or by removing one of the repeating objects.

Sharp Focal Point Patterns - Composition for Photography

Tip: Consider your focal point in these shots – the broken pattern might be a logical spot to have everything focused sharply.

Textures

Lets start by defining texture for the purpose of composition for photography.  Texture will be used to describe the surface detail of an object.  This detail can be composed of surface irregularities or of small forms on a surface.

Texture - Composition for Photography

You can capture texture in three different contexts:

  • Detail – focuses on the detail in the surface of an object.  The object itself is of less importance to the composition.

Detail Texture - Composition for Photography

  • Drama – the texture is used to add drama to an image.  Typically, the contrast or color of the texture serves to capture the viewer’s attention.

Drama Texture - Composition for Photography

  • Informational – helps communicate information about an image.  For example, notice the textures of the image below inform the user that this is a sunlight aged home by the color and texture of the dried up vegetation growing freely up the sides of the aged wooden window.

Informational Texture - Composition for Photography

Background

A common mistake and overlook when taking photographs is the subject’s background.  Cameras have a tendency to flatten the foreground and background and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo.  Or if it is too messy and there is a lot going on, the distracting elements tug at our eyes and pull our attention away from your subject.  The image below is a great example of this exact photography mistake.

Tip: One of the best ways of eliminating distracting elements behind a subject is to throw them out of focus.

To help you decide if your background is appropriate, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the background lighter than the subject?
  2. Is it too messy or busy?
  3. Are there any distracting lines or colors?
  4. Is it too sharp or not sharp enough?
  5. Are there patches of brilliant color that eclipse a more muted subject?
  6. Is there a pole or tree sticking up from behind the focal point?

The background should either complement the subject or be an integral part of it. If it doesn’t do either, the composition will be compromised and the photograph won’t be successful.

In order to move beyond a point and click photographer status, you need to consider everything in your scene.  Do the patterns of the picture tell the story you want? Are you capturing the important textures in the right manner? Will the background elicit the appropriate emotion? Will anyone’s eyes want stop to look at it?

By applying these new guidelines to the Rule of Thirds, Rule of Odds, Balance, and Leading Lines elements we discussed last week, you will be on track to more appealing photography for your website or products.

Next week we will conclude our series by applying Depth, Depth of Field, Framing, and Cropping to our composition  for photography.

10 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Elements of Photography – Part Two

  1. This is so helpful! I have a nicer camera, but I don’t know how to use it. I’m going to try some of these tips to mess around and see what I can do. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I took a photography class in college but the professor was so hard to understand… I wish I would’ve had you! I’m very interested in photography but thought I just wasn’t a natural lol thank you for this!

Tell me your thoughts!