Today's Tricks of the Trade is rather long because it addresses the basics of compositional rules as well as describes the rule of thirds which is the easiest compositional rule to work with.

Compositional Guides or “Rules” are historically proven tools we use to help give our images structure and balance. Many people take exception to the term “rule” when speaking of composition. When we speak of compositional rules we are speaking more along the lines of a guide like the measurements on a ruler than a restrictive regulation.

To work with compositional rules we visualize divisions on our image frame. This is an example of the “Rule of Thirds”. Imagine two horizontal lines equally dividing the frame into three parts and two vertical lines doing the same. The most basic application of the “Rule of Thirds” is to have the foreground fill the lower third. The mid-ground fill the middle third and the sky, or ceiling to fill the top third.

Following this formula will give you a technically well balanced image. Balance is comforting and pleasing to the human psyche and we want people to be pleased and comforted by photographs of interior design.


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One method of using compositional rules to construct a balanced image is the Rule of Thirds: divide your frame and fill two thirds of the sections with your subject. Try to fill the other third with either a foreground or a background depending on how far away from the camera your subject is. Bright or dark sections can throw your balance off, so try to avoid them if you can.

These rules have been in use for thousands of years. Michelangelo, DaVinci and Rembrandt used these rules and if they’re good enough for them, they should be good enough for us.

These rules should be loosely applied, but following them will give you better images; I know because I apply these rules in some combination and form each and every time I create an image and my shots generally work out pretty good.




This “rule” works from side to side as well. If it’s more convenient for you to balance your image from side to side rather than top to bottom, which is often the case do so.

Here you can see the bed, comforter and curtain fill two thirds of the image.
The window, despite being quite bright in both color and luminance, has equal visual weight to the bed, art and curtain.

Compositional rules are powerful tools that give you a foundation upon which you can construct your composition. Here is one method of using compositional rules to construct a balanced image: divide your frame and fill two thirds of the sections with your subject. Try to fill the other third with either a foreground or a background depending on how far away from the camera your subject is. Bright or dark sections can throw your balance off, so try to avoid them if you can.

Remember these rules are intended as general guidelines only, not definitive instructions that are written in stone. This image has the rule applied both horizontally and vertically which results in an asymmetrical composition. The rules generally promote the use of asymmetry in image construction.

You’ll notice that the bed is dominant in only the top two thirds of the right most two thirds of the image, and the ottoman and sweater occupy the left most two thirds of the bottom third of the image. An asymmetrical composition is one way to create an energetic image.

Use the rules as building blocks but don’t be slavishly precise in their application.

Dean

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