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  • Writer's pictureSaurik Shah

My affairs with some of the rules of composition in Photography

When one is passionately in love with somebody, then one wants to spend more time with that person. More time feels like less time. Now, I happened to find my love for photography and every time I take on a project and shoot, there is this inner urge to spend a little more time at it.

And in these many dates with the camera, I have experimented with what they say ‘rules of the composition’. Sounds a little like the Math teacher explaining some ‘rules of indices’ chapter in class which you often skipped in school?

Ha! Well, unlike the rules of arithmetic which you have to rote learn, the rules in photography come with experimentation.

Composition in photography is all about understanding the goal or objective first, picking the right elements and then arranging them to bring out the story that you as a photographer want to tell.

But, how do you know which composition will work well and which wouldn’t?

That’s why this blog!

I write this one to share with my fella photographer friends some tips, personal observations and take away lessons from these four commonly known rules of composition: the S Curve Rule, One Point Perspective, Rule of Thirds and Repetition and Pattern.

1. S Curve Rule

So, the S Curve rule helps a visual travel back and forth to the photo adding dynamism and movement.

Though it is indeed a widely used rule in photography as well as fine art, it is still underrated. Now, S curve composition will help you to keep your viewer glued to the photo for some more time. However, the success of using this rule will depend on how you place the hero element in the photo with the supporting elements.

Make sure you provide the right visual guide and choose the right elements which complement this storytelling!

Here’s an example.

2. One Point Perspective

Here, unlike a lot of visual travel and dynamism with the S Curve rule, the hero element is placed at the centre and supporting elements are placed surrounding it. This gives more focus and importance to the hero element which in the absence of surrounding element may be lacking.

One Point Perspective is also called the Leading Line rule.

The composition in the photo is wanting to celebrate what’s kept at the centre and pictorially treats it like a king.

Let me explain it with this shot.

3. Rule of Thirds

Now, this is a widely used rule and it's easy to understand why.

So, you divide the frame into 9 quadrants and place the hero element on the points of intersection of the quadrant lines. This grabs attention. Depending on which culture one is born and nurtured into, the human mind is taught to read either from left to right or right to left. That is why having the hero image towards the first or the third quadrant quickly picks attention.

Also, it makes for a pleasing photograph because along with the hero image, the viewer gets to see the entire backdrop in which the hero element is placed. This adds context and substance to the hero image.

4. Repetition and Pattern

Da Da Da Ta Ra Ra Ra Rum

Ga Re Ga Re Ga Ma Pa Dha

This sounds silly, right? But, look at these sounds carefully. Did you not just sing them while reading? And by the way, did it not create an impact on your mind?

One of the reasons it did was because these sounds had a pattern. So, when you use repetition of elements to create a pattern in a frame, it is going to draw attention! It’s pretty much like learning from human psychology!

And what’s best, you may use the hero element in such a way that it breaks the pattern. Just as you solved the ‘Circle the out man out’ question in your elementary grades.

And, I wrap it here

Though these rules are explained in a stand-alone manner, one may use a combination of these success formulae together. One may use ‘The rule of Thirds’ and ‘Repetition’. Or, ‘S Curve Rule’ and ‘The rule of Thirds’ together. And, while we have discussed the most commonly used rules here, there are many more instore. You could check out my Instagram handle where I have experimented with a combination of these rules.

But, the moot point here is – okay, there are tons of these rules. But, how does one know where to apply which rule? And, more importantly, how?!

So, when you apply say ‘S Curve Rule’ to a frame and then decide to crop. You’ll realise that you will simply not be able to do that. Cropping works for ‘One Point Perspective’ or even ‘Repetition and Pattern’. It also works for ‘Rule of Thirds’. Such are niceties of these rules which do not get the attention it deserves!

And, these tricks of the trade only an experienced photographer can teach you. You too could learn the art of composition and more importantly the subtle secret nuances, people rarely talk about, let alone know! Let’s catch up over a coffee and I’ll open to you the pandora’s box (online obviously in these times!)

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