Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Thirds: How rectangular frames are weighted, part of Photography Foundations: Composition.
We've already discussed balance and with the exercises you've done, you should now have some experience with considering balance during your shooting. This means that you've probably also discovered that balance is a somewhat ephemeral concept. Lots of different things in your scene can be used as balancing elements, and that can make it difficult to determine if your composition is actually balanced. At other times you might not be able to find balance in a scene, even if you move around and try to simplify the composition, there might be times where you just can't find the balanced solution.
In these instances it can be helpful to fall back on some straight-ahead theory, and one of the most basic compositional theories has to do with the rectangular shape of the frame. If you divide a rectangular image into thirds, you can often achieve balance by weighting these regions against each other. Sometimes you can achieve balance by placing compositional elements within these regions and sometimes you can achieve it by placing elements on the boundary between these regions. For example, in the frame that you're looking at right now, I am sitting on the intersection between two of the thirds.
I am adding compositional weight to this end of the frame, and all of the things over there in the other two thirds of the frame are balancing me out. Now the actual division of the frame doesn't have to be extremely accurate. That boundary between where one third ends and another begins can have some flexibility. What's important about the idea of thirds is to realize that the fulcrum for the compositional weight in a rectangular image can sit either in the middle of the frame or on one of these third points.
You could also divide the vertical space of the frame into thirds. You might have heard of the rule of thirds, which says that if you lay a grid over the frame, a grid that shows the horizontal and vertical thirds, then placing an object at the intersection of those gridlines will give you good composition. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. Very often working with thirds will lead you to good compositions. But again, there are no recipes for good composition. What's handy about guidelines like this is that they can give you a starting point, a structure for those times where you can't find your way through composition and need to think it through instead.
The course addresses how the camera differs from the eye and introduces composition fundamentals, such as balance and point of view. Ben also examines the importance of geometry, light, and color in composition, and looks at how composition can be improved with a variety of post-production techniques. Interspersed throughout the course are workshop sessions that capture the creative energy of a group of photography students; shooting assignments and exercises; and analyses of the work of photographers Paul Taggart and Connie Imboden.
- Looking versus seeing
- Understanding when and why to use black and white
- Analyzing lines
- Arranging the elements into lines and shapes
- Working with perspective and symmetry
- Changing focal length, camera position, and depth
- Dividing rectangular frames into thirds
- Weighting the corners in square pictures
- Composing photographs of people
- Composing landscape photos
- Working with light: direction, texture, and negative space
- How to shoot color
- Guiding the viewer's eye
- Controlling depth
- Improving composition in post-production
Skill Level Intermediate
Photography Foundations: Exposure (2010)with Ben Long3h 24m Appropriate for all
Photography Foundations: Black and Whitewith Ben Long3h 3m Intermediate
1. Understanding Composition
What is composition?2m 1s
3. Composition Fundamentals
4. Geometry: Lines and Shapes
5. Shooting Best Practices
6. Balance Revisited
8. Workshop: Finding Light
10. Guiding the Viewer
11. Workshop: Foreground and Background
13. Post Production
14. Workshop Exhibition and Wrap-Up
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