Introduction to the Composition in Photography

When we talk about any art, there is the  “composition” which keeps more importance than any other factors. We say the proper composition is important for any successful art. And as photography is an art, here also it is very important. In this post, I’ll explain how to compose an image and why it is important.

What is the Composition?

In general language, composition decides how elements should be placed in your art. It is a proper arrangement or placement of elements so that your art will be a perfect one, not just any mess. Consider a musical composition. A musician composes any song or music with proper notes in a proper order. Random notes will create just a chaos. But with a proper arrangement, he creates a beautiful masterpiece.

Musical composition.

Musical composition.

Similarly, when a painter is painting on a canvas, it is essential that he puts the elements in the picture properly, well arranged. A proper composition is required to express the theme efficiently.

Composition in a painting by Wassily Kandinsky

Composition in a painting by Wassily Kandinsky

The Same thing is applied in photography. It is essential to understand composition for photography. Composing an image means arranging elements in your image according to your theme such that it fulfils your core idea or shows what you really want to show, more efficiently.

Why is composition required in Photography?

Now as I’ve explained earlier, it is clearly understood that composition brings a harmony in your art. While taking a photograph, it might be possible that there are lots of elements near your main subject. Thus, it is important that we should select and arrange them properly.

If your image is well composed, you can even bring best out of dull. But bad composition can destroy even the best frame. Thus, a balanced and well-mannered composition is required for a perfect photograph.

An example of badly composed image. Though time and place was perfect, but image doesn't express anything because of bad framing.

An example of badly composed image. Though time and place were perfect, but the image doesn’t express anything because of bad framing.

Another example of bad composition. There are few distracting elements which are effecting the focus of viewers.

Another example of bad composition. There are few distracting elements which are affecting the focus of viewers.

Here the exposure is incorrect. there are too many distracting elements. also framing is very wrong. Thus though place is very good to capture a portrait, yet image is poorly composed.

Here the exposure is incorrect. there are too many distracting elements. also, framing is very wrong. Thus, even though the place is very good to capture a portrait, the image is poorly composed.

Understanding the composition may come up as a difficult concept to grasp at the beginning. But again, the key for best composition is your imagination. After all, it is the ultimate key behind every great masterpiece! Let us discuss how to compose an image.

How to compose an image?

First of all, your camera settings affect the composition of your image. Correct exposure is required for any good photograph. In last few posts, I’ve explained how to gain correct or required exposure and set other settings like white balance. more you practice on them, experiment with them, more you’ll master the art of exposure.

Selection of elements is very important factor in a case of composition. If elements are too less, your image may not show the core theme. If elements are too much, the image may get disturbed. in that case, it may not be possible for a viewer to focus on the main subject. If you want to create a fine art, it is necessary that you should choose elements in such a way that they create a good balance in your photograph. Thus choosing elements properly is essential for proper composition.

Once you’ve chosen all necessary elements according to your theme, the next task is to arrange them. The arrangement is important to bring the harmony in your image. If elements are well mannered or well put, it will help viewers to focus on the core idea of your image for sure.

The proper arrangement makes it easy to understand the theme of the image and focus on the main subject. Thus to do so, first focus on your subject, and what you want to show. Then to set your frame, either place your main subject at required position in your frame or move by yourself until the required frame is not acquired. Once your frame is set, that is all elements are well arranged, click the image, and get a well-composed photograph!

Let us check out few examples how proper composition helps to create a perfect photograph.

Types of composition

Basically, the composition is based upon your imagination. It helps to reflect your theme more effectively. And for photography, there are few techniques which will definitely help you in composing your frame. In general, the composition can be divided into three main types.

Closed Composition

In closed composition, we focus on a particular subject, which is our main subject. Generally, that subject occupies a large area in your frame. Other elements are not that much important in the frame though they can be used to convey the theme.

Generally other elements are lesser in number or blurred so that focus will stay on the main subject. They can even be used to point the main subject. In general, the closed composition is based on the idea in which viewer’s focus is still and is on the core subject. Such type of composition is used in portraits, macro photography, etc.

Example of closed composition. Focus is mainly on the bird.

An example of closed composition. Focus is mainly on the bird.

Consider the image above. It is a portraiture of a bird. The main focus is on that bird, especially his eye. Other elements have blurred that means they are less important. Thus, viewer’s focus while looking at the image is steady, on the bird.

Another example of closed composition. The main focus is on the ancient manuscript. Other elements are used to generate a theme.

Another example of closed composition. The main focus is on the ancient manuscript. Other elements are used to generate a theme.

Close-up image of a spider. Web points the spider, helps to focus on our main subject.

Close-up image of a spider. The web points the spider, helps to focus on our main subject.

Open Composition

The open composition is just opposite of the closed one. Thus in open composition, as you can predict, the focus is not fixed. Here the focus is dynamic, that means there can be many elements which are highlighted or given more importance. To change the focus of the viewer, many techniques such as leading line, colour change, texture, etc are used.

Example of an open composition. Flock of birds is forming a pattern or texture in the image. All elements are equally important. the pattern helps to shift the focus from one elements to another.

An example of an open composition. A flock of birds is forming a pattern or texture in the image. All elements are equally important. the pattern helps to shift the focus from one element to another.

Landscapes are the best examples of open composition.

Landscapes are the best examples of open composition.

Another example of open composition. Equal importance is given to all the elements.

Another example of open composition. Equal importance is given to all elements.

Mixed Composition

Sometimes photographers frame the images such that they can not be categorised in closed or open composition particularly. It can be possible that single image has more than one important elements (open composition), yet it is framed such that the viewer focuses on a specific part of image only (closed composition). Such mixed composition can also create some wonderful images.

Here there are more than one elements which are equally important in the image. Thus we can say that it is openly composed for once. But the image is framed such that only a specific potion of the frame is in the main focus. here walls of the entrance are pointing a particular part in the frame. So here the closed composition is also applied.

An example of the mixed composition in the photograph.

In this image, there are more than one elements which are equally important. Thus, we can say that it is openly composed for once. But the image is framed such that only a specific potion of the frame is in the main focus. here walls of the entrance are pointing a particular part in the frame. So here we can also say that image has closed composition. By such a composition, the lifestyle or architecture of that place is highlighted.

Now as you are aware of the composition and few basic techniques of composing images, it is your job that you practice on them. Remember that a good composition can bring out the best out of waste! And yes it will help you a lot to improve your photography. Composition needs your imagination, not any particular high-tech camera. So more will you practice, more you will be a master composer!

To help in your composition, there are many rules and techniques for framing in photography. In next post, I’ll explain the rules of framing and composition.

Leave a Comment


* : 11 + 8 =