In the visual arts—in particular painting, graphic design, photography, and sculpture—composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art. The term composition means ‘putting together,’ and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing to photography, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, depending on the context.
The artist determines what the center of interest (focus in photography) of the art work will be, and composes the elements accordingly. The gaze of the viewer will then tend to linger over these points of interest, elements are arranged with consideration of several factors into a harmonious whole which works together to produce the desired statement – a phenomenon commonly referred to as unity. Such factors in composition should not be confused with the elements of art (or elements of design) themselves. For example, shape is an element; the usage of shape is characterized by various principles.
Some principles of organization affecting the composition of a picture are:
- Shape and proportion
- Positioning/Orientation/Balance/Harmony among the elements
- The area within the field of view used for the picture (“cropping”)
- The path or direction followed by the viewer’s eye when they observe the image.
- Negative space
- Contrast: the value, or degree of lightness and darkness, used within the picture.
- Geometry: for example, use of the golden mean
- Illumination or lighting
- Repetition (Sometimes building into pattern; rhythm also comes into play, as does geometry)
Breaking the rules can create tension or unease, yet it can add interest to the picture if used carefully, so just use these as guidelines instead of a hard rule!
With the help of Steve McCurry’s (http://stevemccurry.com) incredible photographs and COOPH’s video, we can understand the basic tips on how to improve the photo composition in our work.
Any other tips you think are essential in photography?