Saturday, 6 November 2010

Composition: Context, Contrast and Less is More

What makes a good picture? From whence cometh your ideas? How long is a piece of string, for that matter?

Composition apparently has rules. Rectangular pictures work better than square ones. Important features and lines should lie on the "thirds". Never have a subject walking "out" of a picture. Leave space for the subject to breathe. Oh, and black and white should also be grainy. Yes, I have employed all of these rules, and equally I have broken them all at times.

The only rule I have never obeyed is that which states that Aunt Flo should appear in the centre of the image, looking uncomfortable with eyes screwed up against bright sunlight featuring a lamp post growing out of her head. Aunt Flo doesn't like having her picture taken anyway.

So, lets talk about Context. Imagine you are abroad on holiday and you see a paraglider. That will make a nice picture. Grab the telezoom, zoom in and - click. So here we have a picture of a paraglider against a nice sky. We know you took it on holiday, but it could be anywhere really...



So what happens if we zoom out a little so we include some context in the shot.  Now we can see just what this guy is up to... Yes its a nutcase buzzing the hotels on the seafront...



Here is another simpler example of a paraglider in context. In this case he is doing spirals as he passes in front of the hotel. Each spiral is lower than the last. I waited until I get him facing me with the horizon in the shot. I feel that adds context, and emphasises the activity as well.



Now lets look at Contrast. here is a shot of some nice flowers I spotted in someone's front lawn while out for a walk around the village. A picture of nice flowers on grass taken from a standing position would not have much impact, so I had to place the camera in the grass and use the tilting rear screen to focus and compose. The point of all this effort is to get a worm's eye view of the flowers and therefore add some context, and by adjusting my position I placed the flowers against the dark tree trunk. This creates the much needed contrast, and in my opinion lifts a simple flowers on grass picture out of the ordinary...



This example also features a low viewpoint flower on grass idea, but in this case I have opted for the colour contrast of yellow on green to add impact to an otherwise boring subject. All three final pictures feature tight focus to emphasis the subject and blur the background...





Sometimes Less is More. Maybe this one breaks all the rules: Most of it is out of focus and it pushes the rule of thirds to the limits! A violin maker (Woodbridge Violins) in Suffolk.



There you are.... Context, Contrast and Less is More


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