The Importance of Composition

What is it that attracts you to a photograph? And what is it about that image that makes you stop and look again? It could be the subject, the colors, the composition, the technical difficulty, or the particular personal meaning it has for you.

Over the years, I’ve seen people who always seem to be attracted to bright, vibrant colors in a photograph. But then, there’s the group of people who love black and white photography.

I’ll never fully understand the psychology behind what one person finds attractive about an image, and another doesn’t, but the bottom line is that art is very subjective. It is in the eye of the beholder.

When I look at an image, there are several things that can draw me in. Probably the most influential is composition. After I examine more technical things like exposure, tonality, and sharpness, I might look at mood, quality of light, the overall effectiveness, vibrancy, technical difficulty, or even the imagination it took to take the photograph. But I always seem to come back to composition.

When all is said and done, it could be the balance or harmony of the photograph that determines whether or not you feel good about it. Does the image make you feel at ease or does it give you a sense of tension that cries out to be resolved like a leading note in music?

Certainly many photo journalistic images will leave you with a sense of tension, but that’s what they’re trying to do. In nature or landscape photography, it is usually a sense of balance or a wondrous sense of awe that we want to achieve.

Time and time again, the composition of the photograph plays an important role in how I select photos for discard. It is one of the first things that I notice, and oddly enough, it is also one of the last things that affects me about a photograph.

We don’t always have to stick to the rules of photographic composition. Rules are a prison to our creativity sometimes. But we should always be aware of the profound effect composition has on the viewer.


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