Still Composition

10 Composition Tips with Award-Winning Photographer Steve McCurry!
Posted by artFido - fetching art on Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is based on the idea that the human eye is naturally drawn to a point that follows the suggestion of the golden mean. Superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid on most aspect ratios and you might be surprised how many compositions follow this basic influence on photographic composition, visual design. See where the strongest and most contrasting points fall on the intersecting lines of that grid, creating movement through the frame.

At the Dam Cafe at Hoover Dam are these umbrellas, stainless steel structures that provide shade for the Dam tourists. The intricacies of the umbrella structure and morays induced by the patterns of the holes in the canopy inspired this shot.

This vertical composition of one of the angels who flank a memorial at Hoover Dam illustrates the compositional influence of the rule of thirds as well.

Landscapes will be more pleasing to the eye when the Rule of Thirds is applied to the horizon line.

If the area of interest is land or water, the horizon line will usually be two-thirds up from the bottom. Alternately, if the sky is the area of emphasis, the horizon line may be one-third up from the bottom, leaving the sky to take up the top two-thirds of the picture.

Faces lend themselves to the golden rule, unique compositions in and of themselves, but frame them under the same compositional influences using thirds and the images breathe. Imagine if each of these were framed dead-center, static.

Daniel and Lindsey flirt a bit with the frame that is closest their faces. For Daniel it's camera-right and Lindsey camera-left. Thirds force them to the frame which induces a bit of bounce back with their eyes, taking your eyes into the frame, for Daniel from left to fight and for Lindsey just the opposite. 

Amber's composition exploits the thirds rule as well, but the energy here is more riveting on her eyes by the placement and the lack of influence of the frame. There is no ricochet like the two above, so framed due to a number of factors; the sub-composition of the contrast of her hair against her hoodie against the background, and the remarkable agreement between her eyes and her smile. 

I don't recognize these influences during the shoot. It's more a matter of trusting the movement of my own eye in the viewfinder and the subtle adjustment of the film plane to capture something that communicates. 

The Diagonal Rule

Linear elements, such as roads, waterways, and fences placed diagonally, are generally perceived as more dynamic than horizontally placed ones.

This establish of the Dam Cafe sends the eye on a z axis through the frame via the strong vertical lines of the railing.

Indications of direction are considered to be vectors and can be categorized into graphic, motion, and index vectors.

Graphic vectors have a strong sense of direction such as strong architectural angles of a building or lines painted on a roadway surface. These vectors encourage eye movement through the frame along the vector line.

The diagonal graphic lines etched in the walls of this slot canyon force the z-axis attraction.

Index vectors suggest direction such as a pointing finger or the arrow on a "one way" sign. The image below uses the the hardware on the belt to direct the eye out of the frame.

Motion vectors take the eye and lead it through the frame. The closer the proximity of the object to the frame the more amplified the psychological context.

The motion vector of the car above points to space for it to move into, giving it a psychological sense of balance, space and momentum.

The motion vector of this here leads the car right into the frame creating a sense of trapping or nowhere to go.

Once you're in your groups, click on this link that shows a take from a shoot at the Mountain Meadows. Select shots that represent the compositional influences discussed, including the rule of thirds, the diagonal rule and vectors, then justify your selection to your peers.