Hihi! I am back again to continue this series on how to take better macro shots! I hope you have learnt the importance of the subjects you choose to photograph after reading this first article on Choice of Subject.
Today we are talking about composition, one of the most important aspects to any genre of photography. Composition (in Photography) basically refers to the way in which different parts are arranged to make up the final photo. Of course, our aim here is to produce photos with good composition, where subjects are “arranged”, or “presented” in such a manner that they look attractive to viewers.
With great control of composition, you would be able to make your photos stand out, even when your subjects are not-that-great. Although this skill may take plenty of time and practice to master, but once you get the hang of it, it can be applied to any other types of photography, and even videography- definitely worth honing!
So, before we start, I would like to point out that whether a photo is properly composed or not (to a certain degree, of course) may be subjected to personal preferences, so you might not always agree with another. Different people have different tastes and perspectives after all; learn to accept and respect that and you are good to go!
Alright! Shall we begin?
1. Don’t compose your shot with your subject directly in the middle of the frame, unless if it is a “symmetrical” shot
Beginners tend to take photos with the subject at the centre of the frame, and you can’t really blame them as most are not familiar with the term composition. What’s more, most started off with simple digital cameras which only focuses at the centre (at least during my era lol), so it is only normal that they continue to photograph similarly even when using DSLRs.
People looking at your photographs will think that your shots are monotonous if each and every one of them have the subjects centred, regardless of how attractive your subjects are. On top of that, with so many other beginners taking shots like this, your shots can hardly stand out, which is not good.
So, the idea is rather simple, don’t frame your subject at the centre of the photograph. But where exactly should you frame the subject then? Please read Point 2 below for more details.
That said, there are instances when framing your subject in the middle works well in terms of composition. This is especially true when you are photographing your subject from an angle such that it looks symmetrical i.e. the left and right sides look similar to one another (see photo for better understanding). By composing your shot this way, you present your subject in a more orderly fashion, and thus more pleasing to the eye. Nevertheless, these shots are not easy to come by in reality.
2. Using the Rule of Thirds as a guideline
Where should you position your subject (if it is not a symmetrical shot)? Now would be a good time to bring in the Rule of Thirds– a general guideline which will always be brought up when it comes to artistic composition. This guideline sees the division of an image into 9 rectangles (see photo for better understanding) by one set of equally-spaced horizontal lines plus another set of equally-spaced vertical lines; and by placing your subject of interest along these lines or intersections, your photos will be more attractive to a viewer- magic!
Please don’t ask me why it is doesn’t come out as the rule of forth or fifth as I really don’t know haha, but I do know that the Rule of Thirds work in general, and it will help you produce much better shots.
So how do you take better composed shots in practice?
Now that you understand the theory behind the Rule of Thirds, you should also understand that you don’t have to compose your subjects perfectly to fit that rule. This is because it is often hard to control subject, wind or hand/body movements during shooting sessions; as long as the subject is somewhere near the lines that follow the rule of thirds, it is already fine as you can always crop during post processing to better the composition.
Of course, it is not an easy task to “estimate” where the Rule-of-Third’s line is when viewing through the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. So what I usually do is switch to manual selection of Autofocus (AF) points, that way I can place the AF point to the spot where I want the subject to be in before I start focusing on it. This method is applicable regardless of whether you are shooting with autofocus or manual focus, as the point will still serve as a guide to where you should place your subject.
3. Proper placement of subjects
Okay, now that you know what is the Rule of Thirds, you might notice that there are actually four main lines or intersections (see photo) where you could place your subject. Which one do you choose?
Well, this depends on how you portray your subject. Usually, if your subject is “looking” at once particular direction, you can compose in such a way that there are more space towards that direction. For example, if a subject is looking towards the left, you can compose the subject on the right end of your photo, so that you can show a bit on what the subject was “looking” at, so that the photo makes more sense.
Of course, things may not always be that simple, especially when you are shooting at an uncommon angle. it is therefore up to you to decide where you should place your subject so that it makes sense, yet looks interesting.
Also, when you shoot some highly magnified shots, sometimes it might become uncertain as to where and how to follow the Rule of Thirds. When this happens, think about the main focus of your shot (see photo below for details), and frame it according to the rule of thirds.
4. Break the Rule of Thirds
Once you have mastered the basics of composition in photography which includes the popular Rule of Thirds, ironically, the next step is to try and break that rule. As aforementioned, the Rule of Thirds is merely a guideline to aid people in getting better shots- it was never obligatory. That said, learning about the Rule of Thirds is still part and parcel of learning about photographic composition: You cannot break the Rule of Thirds without understanding the concept first. It is also unlikely that a beginner will be able to consistently take superb macro shots that disobeys the Rule of Thirds.
Breaking the Rule of Thirds requires a lot of creativity in my humble opinion. To be honest, I am still having troubles not following the Rule of Thirds, probably because I am so used to the rule already haha. As a result, I am not able to share much on this point at this time. Anyway, will keep on trying! I do hope I will be able to take really creatively composed shots one day!
That’s about it for composition in (Macro) Photography. By truly understanding the basics about composition, you would be able to take superb shots, even out of smartphones or digital camera, which goes to show just how significant composition is to photography. Again, I need to stress that there is really no Right or Wrong when it comes to composition, so long as you manage to convey your message through a photograph that is visually attractive.
That said, I still have much to learn in this aspect, so let us all work hard in improving our macro skills! If you have some extra tips that would help improve shot compositions, please do note hesitate to share it with us, I am sure there I have left out something there haha!
The next article is on Lighting, which is one of the core components of Photography: Taking Better Macro Shots Part 3- Lighting.
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