Did you "learn by doing" from last week's post? If you really gave some thought to it, you probably came to an "aha" moment — when you started seeing what it is about an image that makes you like it or not like it. Now, we will begin a journey through some tips and tricks that will make sense of what's going on.
We've all heard that in the real estate business, it's all about "location, location, location." Well, in photography (or any visual artform) it's all about "composition, composition, composition." If you stop for a moment and go back to the images you sorted through, you will realize that what really got you hooked or not was the composition of the picture. The lighting or the color may have had some influence, but it undoubtedly was the composition that had the greatest impact.
If any of the pictures you used for the exercise are in digital form on your computer, here's something to try. If it's a color image, convert it to black & white. An image you like will look just as good to you without color. That is an important point to remember — great color can never overcome bad composition. If that fantastic color photo tanks when you remove the color, then there is something very wrong with the composition.
There are many guidelines for composition (I'm not going to refer to them as rules because we are talking about art, not science), but the most basic is the "rule of thirds" — I know, I said i wouldn't call them rules. Divide the image into three equal segments in each direction. Where those imaginary lines intersect is ideal for placement of the main subject. Put horizons or other prominent horizontal features on, or very near, one of the imaginary horizontal lines. Likewise for vertical features. Many digital cameras have a way to show these lines superimposed on the LCD — a great aid to composing a great photo.
The one thing you should avoid, unless you are deliberately going for a specific artsy concept, is placing the main subject in the exact center of the image. By doing this, the viewer will struggle to move their eyes around the rest of the image. It's almost like putting their eyes in jail. Go back and look at the photos you used to begin developing your eye. You will likely see the "rule of thirds" at work in all the ones you liked and not so much in the ones you didn't like.
Next time, we'll take a look at some of the subtle things that have a big influence on overall composition. Until then, start practicing.