An Eye for Composition

October 1, 2008

To summarize what I said in class yesterday about this next project, there are three aspects of new media production involved:

1) The technical (being able to create these slides in Photoshop and use a digital camera).

2) The storytelling skills (creating a compelling story, with a narrative arc, using images and words).

3) The aesthetic (taking good, well-composed pictures and placing them in appealing slide layouts).

This exercise will address the latter item; specifically, it will look at composition. There are many compositional devices and principles used by photographers as they shoot: the Rule of Thirds, Symmetry, Balance, Diagonals, Disappearing Lines, Patterns, etc. The following links explore and define these devices. Please read these pages closely and study the examples. Then, find 2 pictures that are posted online which demonstrate one or more of the compositional approaches. Post those links with a brief description.

Basic Composition Guidelines

More Good Guidelines

Fill Your Frame!

Find Fresh Angles!

When looking for examples to post, DO NOT SIMPLY GOOGLE “LOWER THIRDS” OR SOME OTHER KEYWORD. Instead, let’s go to sites like Flickr (click on the EXPLORE tab) and find them.

Remember the tag code for posting links:

<a href=”http://blahblahblah.com”>Some Name for the Link Goes Here</a>



  1. 25 cents or 5 for a dollar

    This first image represents the use of depth of field with monotonous content. The table is covered in buttons and pins but only a small portion of them are actually in focus. The photography uses the term “bokeh” when describing his photo. Bokeh is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image, this is produced by using a shallow depth of field. I think this image does a great job of allowing the viewer to make out what they are actually seeing while leaving alot to the imagination.

    Road to the coast

    This next image does an amazing job at using “S” curves and gracefully allows the eye to move throughout the image. I believe the image is also using the rule of thirds. When you look at the image you can see that the bottom section has the best lighting, as your eye moves up the road the lighting transitions drastically from light to dark (almost a distinct line). The clouds work as the last section and provide an incredible balance that moves the eye from the end of the road and forces it to examine each cloud. This image does an excellent job with composition.

  2. Yay! Your links worked. Good work with this, Dani.

  3. Acorn from our burr oak

    This pictures demonstrates the rule of thirds by having the acorn not in the center of the image. Instead, it is located slightly to the right and bottom of the image, where the imaginary vertical and horizontal lines would meet if they were imposed over the image, which some cameras have settings that allow you to have these lines in the viewfinder or LCD screen to help you set up the shot.

    Reflection Kiss

    This image is an example of a photograph that uses a reflection. In this image, the reflection of the couple in the tide pool help fill the space in this image, as well as add to the 3D qualities of the picture. In addition to showing reflection, this image also uses silhouettes since the couple is in front of the setting sun, which makes them the subject of the photograph instead of the sun set, but it also helps keep the scene somewhat magical and romantic since the viewer can’t see too many details of the two people.

  4. Walking In Pienza

    This photo is an aesthetically appealing image of an Italian street, lined on either side by tall, stone buildings. I love the composition, the depth, the perspective, and the use of negative space in this image. The photographer used the basic rule of thirds to create a point of interest. Rather than the alley’s end being dead center, the photographer placed the focal point to the left of the image. Not only does this create a more interesting piece, but it also enhances line, brings conformity, and creates a unique sense of depth. The line of the stairs disappears into the corner of the photograph, which gives the allusion of continuation past the edge.

    Flower In Love

    This photograph is an example of the use of layers: the flower in the foreground, the background, and the white, negative space. Using layers makes the flower pop. There is also continuity in the image that prevents viewer’s eyes from getting stuck on any one point. The layers add depth and contour to the photograph. There is a sense of unity in the image. The photographer also used the rule of thirds method for both the flower and the horizon line.

  5. I’m going to use pictures I took while I was in China earlier this year.

    Horse on the Water

    This picture was taken at the Summer Palace in Beijing. My girlfriend had given me a small horse to take on the trip with me. It was probably only 4″ long. This image is a good use of using layers. The horse is in the foreground, which makes it look huge compared to the very large palace in the background.

    Instrument Man

    I think this image uses the rule of 3rds well. The man is positioned on the right side of the picture, but his instrument is displayed throughout the other 2/3rds, so the image is balanced.

  6. Dreaming

    The Dreaming photo clearly depicts reflection. Both of the trees in this photo are reflected off of the water. Through reflection this photographer created perception and depth. The angle suggests that the photographer has a body of water between themselves and the trees and that the trees are not necessarily next to one another, but beyond one another. One thing that this photographer could have done better is used the basic rule of thirds. The first tree is the main focal point and it’s dead center, especially it’s reflection. Had the photographer focused in more and had the larger tree set to the far left and not included the smaller tree the negative space to the right would have created a more artistic photo. For example: Dreaming2

    Do You Dare?

    This photo is a great example of using angles to enhance a “wow” factor. Similar to the pineapple from the last link this photographer has created a sense of position. The angle allowed the photographer to seem “smaller” than, or “below” the dominant figure of the photo (the man). I think the title of the photo says it well; “Do you Dare?”; the emotion created from the angle coincides with its name. Do you dare challenge this man? Do you dare try to be like this man? It puts the man in the photo on a new and different level than both the photographer and it’s viewers.
    This photo also alludes to motion (in the sky). If you look to the right of the clouds their is some blur and negative space alluding to movement in the sky because the photographer balanced the movement to be behind it’s blur.

    Both of these photos create an atmosphere and experience for the viewer because they are not straight, cut and dry photos. They include artistic thought and design behind the focus of the camera.

  7. Staircase

    This photo is an example of using depth. At first it can look like an eye trick because the view is from the top of the staircase looking down. The shape of this image is made up of several triangles as the staircase turns. There are also three support poles that come from the sides of the picture and go into the middle. This photo could also fall under the jigsaw puzzle category because of its repetitiveness.


    This photo is interesting because of the shapes and texture, as well as the fact that there is a diagonal that splits the picture. The picture is very close up and focused on the patterns rather than zooming out to get the entire image. The composition is interesting because of the diagonal lines that run through the picture. There are also several different shapes that make up the picture.

  8. Mets’ Pitcher

    This picture of a Mets’ pitcher doing what they usually do (give up Home Runs), is a good example of the rule of thirds and lead room. It’s evidence of the former because of the way it draws your eye away from the middle, going first to the pitcher and then the batter round first base. Neither of those players are in the very middle of the page. It also uses lead room, which is what we who’ve done TV camera work, call Movement in front of an object. As you can see, the photographer left a lot of room on one side of the pitcher.

    Curving Away
    Here you can see lines appearing and disappearing from and into corners. This is done so as not to divide the picture. Also, on the second link, it says the curving lines make the composition stronger.

  9. Snake
    The above link is an interesting picture of a snake. It takes full advantage of the frame, and instead of focusing on the “look how huge this snake is” perspective, it focuses on its head. This strikes (get it, strike…snake…bad pun and definitely not intended) me as different because the head is typically the part of the snake people try to stay away from because of the danger associated with it, yet this picture is up-close-and-personal. This picture uses the full frame and a different angle to introduce a, in some ways, new part of the snake to viewers. The light reflects off the scales and represents the real life texture. The placement of the camera actually creates the persona of a menacing snake because it is looking down at you and it looks like it has its nostrils flared in anger and is ready to attack.
    Cheese bridge?
    This picture uses the rule of thirds and the rule of disappearing lines. The only thing going on in the pictures is the assumed cheese bridge with the coconut bowl balancing on it. The is a fairly minimalistic feel to it, but more importantly is the focal point. Out of the two things, my mind noticed the bowl first, which is not centered, according to the rule of thirds. The bridge is positioned in such a way that feels 3D and also disappears into the corner. While this may be a weird photo with not much noticeable meaning to me, it demonstrates quite clearly a few photography rules.

  10. Red, White and Blue Jets
    This photo is a good example of disappearing lines into a corner. The colored streams from the jet disappear into the upper left hand corner of the image. In addition, there is feeling of movement in the photo as the jets zoom towards the bottom right hand corner of the image.

    Water Way
    This image is a good example of reflection. The bridge is reflected on the water so that it almost looks like a complete circle. It is also a good example of depth, because the bridge is further back and you can see the edge of the water leading into the tunnel.

  11. Just about everyone’s links are working. So, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.

  12. Courtyard Marriot

    This is a picture I took about two years ago of a hotel I was staying at in Myrtle Beach. I think it demonstrates the composition idea of finding a fresh angle. It strays from the very commonplace view of objects at eye level with the camera and from straight ahead. Because the shot was taken at an angle, the 3 dimensional properties of the building can be seen. From a frontal view the eye would miss out on the lines and shadows of the building that make it visibly 3-D. I think the specific angle gives the photograph more character, the building itself seems sort of majestic looking at it from the ground and off to the side.

    Monotonous Content

    This is an example of a photo which contains monotonous content. The majority of the space is taken up by the same objects (leaves) that are all very close in color. Each leave has enough detail and a slightly different shade so it is still possible to distinguish one from the other.

  13. Bridge at Bilbao

    This picture is of a bridge in Bilbao designed by a Spanish contemporary architect. The picture represents disappearing lines into corners. The walkway of the bridge disappearing into the lower left hand corner gives you the feel of walking into the picture and onto the bridge. You also get this feel since the disappearing line is shot at closer range than the farther side of the bridge giving the picture more depth. This picture could have potentially done better with the rule of thirds by shooting the people on the bridge at a dividing point of a third of the picture.

    Beach by Lake Ontario

    This picture is of a beach by Lake Ontario in Canada after it has snowed. The reflections of the clouds and trees in this picture are used brilliantly to give it depth and illuminate the wet characteristic of the sidewalk that would otherwise be indistinct. The puddles of melted snow on the sidewalk are made more distinguishable than they would be had the picture been taken at an angle that didn’t adequately show the reflections. The reflections aid the brain in reconstructing the details of the clouds and trees as well as emphasizing the three dimensional nature of the sidewalk. This picture also uses disappearing lines into corners. The sidewalk disappearing into the lower left corner gives the sense that you could walk into the picture and be on the sidewalk walking in the melted snow.

  14. Sunset

    I like this photo because of the lighting. The silhouette of the mountain behind the sun creates a stronger depth of field so the image seems three dimensional. Also the color of the sun seems a lot stronger because of the contrast of the sun and the silhouette.

    Mountain Mist

    This picture uses an off-white silhouette and adds a reflection on a lake to create a deeper depth of feel in three dimensions. The darkness of the forest and its reflection off the pond accentuates the color of the sun and creates a cool lighting effect with the contrasting colors

  15. River

    This photo is an example of an S curve/zigzag curve. It really stood out to me because of the beautiful scenary and how the curving river is one of the first things you notice. It is a really good scenic picture and an amazing view.

    lake reflection

    I didn’t even search for reflection on the flicker website, all I did was type in “lake” and this was the first picture that popped up. I looked at the other pictures too, but this one was my favorite because of the shape that the reflection takes of the mountain. It is such a beautiful picture, and the u-shaped reflection of the mountain in the water adds a really great perspective element to the photograph.

  16. Penultimate Sunset
    This picture had both a silhouette and disappearing lines into corner. I also like vivid colors and the contrast they create.

    Boat and Sunset
    This is another sunset picture. This one used the rule of thirds because the boat is more towards the left of the frame. It also used layers of texture/lighting and reflections.

  17. Reflection

    Here is a photo of ipod headphones reflecting off the ipod. It has several good elements in this photo. To start it has a reflection where there is a distinct line of reference. Secondly the lines of the photo at the top roll off the top of the photo into the corner. Thirdly, it has great contrast between the Ipod and the headphones.

    Tree Line

    In this link you will see the rule of diagonals perfectly executed. It splits the image in two and has decent contrast between the tree leaves and the forest floor.

  18. photo
    This link takes you to a photograph utilizing silhouettes, lines disappearing into a corner, and reflection.

    This link will take you to professional skateboarder Mike Mo Capaldi rolling away from an exploding staircase he just switch flipped over. The photograph uses silhouettes and the rule of thirds.

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