Home Up Elem/Prin Project Design/Composition

This section will deal with some basic design aspects that all contribute to the message you build into your final composition. The media you utilize to manipulate through whatever medium can be reinforced by rules and tricks of photography, art, even drafting. Some of what you are attempting to do is trick your viewer in one way or another, even if it is to simply get their attention.

Fundamentals of photography and/or videography play such an important role in the message you transcend through your imagery. To get started, often we find ourselves having trouble knowing what to shoot, or to how to shoot our subject. It doesn't matter how a composition is being developed, whether it is hand drawn, digitally generated in Photoshop or by a photo shoot. Media composition tactics can all be governed by similar rules.  Basic Composition Principles, one can better capture their audience attention and lure their focus on your subject. Simply experimenting and playing with the Composition, Balance and Visual Mass will alter the reaction of the viewer. When creating images, you should create-photos-with-impact-by-composing-with-purpose/, that is to be Shooting With Intent.

Basic Rules to Pump-up Your Composition

1. Make use of the Rule of Thirds which utilizes 2 imaginary vertical lines and 2 imaginary horizontal lines to section your composition into 9 equal units. Some cameras have the option to view actual gridlines in your view finder. More natural results with the rule of1/3's, the result is not so manufactured. This rule makes it easy to remember to Give Your Subject Space to Look Into for example. (where-is-your-subject-looking-and-why-does-it-matter/)

In an action shot it you would leave Lead room, more space on the screen in the direction of the action so that it appears there is a place to go.

Horizons in scenes are generally shot at the top 1/3 Horizontal line of the frame. Of course, as we all know; "rules are meant to be broken." Maybe we should say that there are always exceptions, so sometimes we might want to Break the Rule of Thirds (team photos) or find An Alternative Rule-of-Thirds.

2. Change your perspective by changing your angle of your shot. Climb a tree, lie on the ground, or at least take a shot from your knees to avoid the habit of shooting at eye-level which tends to make photos repetitive and somewhat common .It might not only make a more interest shot, but radically change the perception. As you know; "It isn't so much what you say, but how you say it". Whether it is your tone of voice, capitalizing words in an e-mail or even the angle of the picture....It all affects the message. In the picture below, which is the bully (the stronger kid) and which is the poor weaker child?


3. Frame in your subject

Position your shoot to include a means to frame in your  subject. This could be a way to balance or off balance your subject, and/or focus on your subject.


Perhaps frame in your subject as a border to simply to decorate your image or add life


4. Create the illusion of Depth. One can make a 2 dimensional screen, poster or page with only width and height, appear to have depth,...the third dimension.

  •  First; you can make things appear to be closer than other things by having the objects that are supposed to be closer depicted as being larger, even over size.

  • Second; If an object partially overlaps another, one assumes that it is closer than the one allegedly behind it

  • Third; clarity and detail; The farther away objects are supposed to be, the less vivid they become. You might have the background out of focused in a photo trying to separate it from the foreground, or simply to highlight your subject.

  • Fourth; is through the power of lines, especially when used to give some perspective to your work.

Activity: "CLICK Here" for clarity on perspective through the use of vanishing points. print off the PRINTABLE EXERCISE and give it a hook.

                    "CLICK Here" for an excellent video how to use 2 vanishing points to produce believable depth to a drawing.

5. Experiment, try  playing with the features of your camera and/or different techniques like:

  • Shoot in Black and White (monochrome). Black and White photography requires a completely different way of seeing the world in terms of shape, form, and contrast, rather than through the common visual cues. You can play with contrast settings in-camera or in post-processing to perfect the highlight to shadow ratio which defines a good monochrome image.
  • Make manual long exposures. With your DSLR mounted firmly on a tripod, set the ISO to 100, set the aperture to the smallest opening (the largest f number like f/22 for example),, but it’s a better idea to attach a wired remote shutter release to prevent camera shake.
  • Show motion in action shots. Play with the three elements of the Exposure Triangle to produce things like motion blur, freeze action, etc:
  1. ISO – the measure of a digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. (Digital) ISO, like film uses 100 series numbers to identify light sensitivity. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain
  2. Aperture – the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken. It works like your iris, the brighter the light, usually, the smaller opening is needed. Aperture impacts your depth of field. An aperture of f/22 could be used where both the foreground and background are largely in focus, where as a f/4.5, or f/2.8 even, might be used for a very shallow depth of field.
  3. Shutter Speed – the amount of time that the shutter is open in fractions of a second. If you’re using a slow shutter speed (anything slower than 1/60) you will need to either use a tripod

The SLR Camera Simulator


<<<"Click" on the button here and experiment with the photography simulators to better acquaint yourself with DSLR camera features.


If colour didn't matter, why were bad guys in old movies always portrayed in black, while good guys in white? Gold and purple represents royalty, purple is also the color of Easter. Why is black associated with death and mourning? Actually, that depends on where you are from. In the Orient, white is the colour of mourning.


One of the principles behind using colour in photography is that of using contrasting colours. text without contrast maybe hard to read
The most important thing about your photograph is light and color. Contrasting tones and shades create a dramatic impact.

Activity: <<<Test your ability to mess with colour

So for example; in this color wheel, 11 & 5 would provide maximum contrast, 1 & 7 are also at opposite spectrums, and so on. Using Colour Boldly can provide some excitement to your composition.

The color wheel above depicts intermediate colors as well as Prime colours.

Questions: Page Answers

A] Answer the following by writing the corresponding numbers  for each color you believe represent the correct result:

        1.]_________ In the wheel above, which colors are warm colors?
        2.]_________ Which colors in the wheel would be considered  cool colors?
        3.]_________ What colors are considered neutral colors?

        1) Explain how color, even in the mating above, can set the
Mood .

         2) Give 3 examples of color symbolism.

         3) What is the difference between movement and rhythm?

         4) Is emphasis and unity similar? Explain


        1) "The rule of Thirds" uses _(how many)_ lines to break your view into _(how many)_ sections.

        2) When applying the rule of thirds what are the 2 most important questions to consider?

        3) Give 2 situations when you might want to break the rule of thirds.

        4) Of the 8 basic principles of composition, identify 3 that are not highlighted on this page.

        5) What are some ways to add depth to an image?

        6) How might, where you take your shot, affect your composition?


3. This principle is important in both colour and monocrome compositions
5. measures the sensitivity of the camera image sensor
7. another name for black and white photography
8. camera opening time measured in fractions of a second
9. the third dimension that we try to trick the viewer in believing exsists
1. the opening in the camera lens
2. where you take your shot greatly effects this
3. This choice can affect your message because of what meaning is culturally associated with it
4. Always use this for shutter speeds less than 1/60 sec
6. "The Rule of Thirds" must be broken to produce this

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