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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sticking to the edges

One thing I realise I don't talk to you all about nearly enough is composition. In this day of auto-everything cameras that will give you the right focus, the right exposure and just about make the right cup of tea for you, composition is the element that can lift your photography from the mundane to the exceptional.

First let me say that any of the rules of composition that I talk about from here on in are more guidelines than rules. You don't need to follow them but you need to understand them to know when you can break them for a special effect.

One of the first rules of photography states that you should never put the subject of your photo right smack bang in the middle of the frame. They call it target shooting and the reason why you should avoid it is because it's a very static way of looking at a picture. Your eye tends to fall on the thing in the middle and not look anywhere else.

So the first really important thing I want you to keep in mind is to keep your subject out of the middle of the frame. So where do you put it? A very popular compositional tool is the rule of thirds. Imagine your viewfinder divided up like a noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) board. Two lines down and two lines across. Where those lines intersect is where you should put your subject. At least that's how the rule goes.

I tend to stick things all the way to edge of the frame, in corners. With the elephant and mahout I wanted to give a sense of them being quite small in this huge landscape of Corbett National Park in India. So I put them all the way in the bottom left hand corner of the frame and left the rest of the frame blank - filled only with endless grass.

I've touched on this before but I like to leave lots of negative space in an image to give a sense of wide open spaces. By having the landscape run out of the frame it leaves you wondering just how far that nothingness goes on for.

By having the elephant and mahout quite small in the frame it really makes them look insignificant, which is ironic because we all know how big elephants really are.

So if you live in an area with lots of wide open spaces try taking a photographic subject and putting them towards the edge of the frame and have them surrounded by nothing to really emphasise the space.

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