In part one of this series I wrote about the “Exposure Triangle.” For this post I would like to discuss the “Composition Triangle.” This triangle has three parts also: Light, subject, and background.
First, let’s talk about light. Photography is about capturing light. There is a subject and some type of background but ultimately the light is of paramount importance. Will the light be exposed correctly or will it be underexposed or overexposed? Is there a correct exposure at all? These are all things that we need to think about. As you grow as a photographer you should be looking for the correct light. When I began shooting it was about the subject. The subject is important but it really it is about the light. Light will make or break a picture. I know you have seen multiple examples of this on Facebook. How many times have you seen a pic taken at the beach where there is a sunset but you can’t make out who the people are in the pic? Apparently the person taking the pic didn’t know what fill flash is so all they got in the picture was a silhouette. Don’t be that photographer. Look at the light and how it falls on the subject and expose accordingly. Currently, I am teaching my youngest grandson about photography and this was our last topic when we were out shooting. I showed him the same subject exposed normally and then I showed him that subject backlit. As we were hiking, the rest of the time he “focused” on finding backlit subjects be it a leaf, vine or cattail. We had a blast and he learned something new. The next time you shoot look primarily for great light- something that grabs you photographically. Then pick your subject with the light falling on it just the way you want.
Second, is the subject. The subject can literally be anything or anyone. When I hike I am not necessarily looking for large subjects. Many times I am looking for texture, maybe in the bark of a tree. I may be looking for something that will look good in black and white. I was out a couple of months ago and I focused on twisted things- be it a vine or branch. I shot exclusively in black and white and had a blast doing it. I have included some of those pictures at the end of this post. As an aside, today I tend to do this more. I may decide to shoot the entire time in macro mode, or at f/2 or with just one lens. It is a great challenge and a different way of looking at your subject, whatever or whomever it may be.
Third is the background. Many good pictures has been ruined by a tree in the background growing out of someones head. I have trained myself to slow down, take a moment to consider all three aspects of the composition triangle and then take the pic. I don’t “run and gun” anymore. I have tried in the last year to concentrate more on quality instead of quantity. If you are framing a pic notice what is in the background and move accordingly. Usually, that is all it takes. A step or two to the right or left can improve your background immensely.
I realize these are basics but I sure wish I would have known them four years ago. Maybe, by reading this post, you will save yourself some time and grief by considering the “Composition Triangle.”
© Vic Schmeltz