About making pictures   - Composition by  Waeshael



The ideal format according to some people is 16:9 because it approaches the golden ratio (1.618:1,) which is more pleasing to the eye than 4:3 or 3:2. But to use that you have to be thinking ahead if your camera only shoots 3:2, or 4:3. It is very hard to crop to 16:9 if you frame is full of important detail. You would have to shoot knowing that the short side is going to be cropped.

In this diagram of the divine ratio (also known as the golden ratio,) the location where the red lines cross is the best place for the subjects key feature - in a portrait, the eye.

  1. Composition

Many many pictures that have interesting content fail to grab attention because they are badly composed. Now, what do I mean by good composition?

Good composition is like good music. You want the music to continue, and perhaps you hum to the melody, and when the tune ends, whatever follows is a let down. A good picture keeps your attention and you scan it all over, always returning to a part of the picture that makes you feel good about life - perhaps you smile.

In a well directed movie - such as Lawrence of Arabia, or Ghandi every frame of the film is beautifully composed, and the impact of the wide open spaces is made greater by the attention to detail at the edges of the frame.

This picture was cropped to create a divine proportion. In addition the arms of the younger girl are made to rest on the bottom edge of the picture - this removes any distraction by the hands and arms from the faces. The eye fixes the location of the arms from the edge contrast of the frame, and then they eye moves on into the picture. The hair cuts into the top edge of the frame and this gets rid of the background, and brings the two faces towards the viewer, almost coming out of the picture. And with the blurring of the background in pp, the impression of depth is made even stronger.

You can see how effective is the divine ratio. Your eye is fixed on the eye of the girl facing the camera.

  1. Composition

The frame:

is as important as the main characters in the scene. I don’t mean a picture frame, I mean the edges of the picture. The edges interact with the subject in ways that affect the impact of the picture on the viewer. Photographers crop to make a particular statement. HCB only cropped a few times to take out a distraction, and directed his printer to never crop his pictures, because the edges of the picture were as important as the subject. There is usually a black line around his pictures showing the edge of the negative, which confirms that no cropping has taken place.

Most of us aren’t that good. We usually crop to improve the picture.

This picture of a work boat on Grand Anse beach, Grenada, BWI is good for several reasons: The picture is simple. It is interesting. The horizon is level. There are three lines running diagonally. The main characters and the boat are on a circle.

The picture fills the frame. The man’s feet rest on the bottom edge of the frame. The man in the middle distance seems to be pulling a curtain across the scene (like in the theater,) his arms are under tension, which is a contrast to the men in the foreground who are at ease. Perhaps they are waiting for the “curtain” to be pulled, before they get into motion? The boat seems to be coming out of the picture, and we are connected to the scene by the boat.