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Framing it right

Framing it right

What makes a photograph visually remarkable? In this article, we examine the concepts of ‘composition’ and ‘perspective’ that will help you get a step closer to taking professional images.

Framing and composition are vital tools that take your photography to a professional level. Presenting your images beautifully to the viewer is an art and this can make or break the photo. There are some textbook rules of composition; however, these are not hard and fast. Composition rules are made to be broken. It ultimately depends on the photographer’s choice of aesthetics.

Having said that, there are a few general concepts of composition which we intend to discuss here.

A viewer needs an entry point in a picture, a balanced route within the various elements in the frame, and finally an exit point to move out of it. An entry point guides the viewer to the point of attraction in an image. It could be the primary object of interest or anything else that leads to the primary object of interest.

It is important to know about elements in a photograph. An element can be anything like a lone tree, a piece of cloud, a human element, the horizon, or an animal. Placing these elements correctly and in a balanced way is what composition is about. Of course, a photograph is not a painting and at times a wildlife photographer may have limited options to experiment with. However, framing the picture and positioning and repositioning yourself slightly may make enormous differences to the final perspective and composition. If the viewer’s eye gets stuck to one particular element for a long time, it becomes less interesting and the viewer feels trapped.

A well-composed image must provide a way to smoothly move out as well. It could be by the way of a vanishing horizon, or a less prominent object in the background, or a perspective that draws the attention of the viewer from the primary object gradually (Fig 1).

Entry, elements and exit points of a composition

(Fig 1) Entry, elements and exit points of a composition | Photo: Amit Rane

The above three effects can be achieved by following a few simple rules.

Rules of framing, composition and presenting your work

There is a very well-known rule called the rule of thirds. Divide your image into nine segments using two horizontal and two vertical lines as demonstrated in Fig 2 (Cover Photo). The intersection points of the lines are called power points. Your primary object of interest should be placed either in one of the thirds or in one of the power points.

Keeping some space in front of the object is a good idea. It gives space for movement and portrays a sense of freedom. A bird about to fly or an animal running must have adequate space in the front for it to move in. Else, it will trap the object making the image highly suffocating (Fig 3).

Give space in front of the object

(Fig 3) Give space in front of the object  | Photo: Caesar Sengupta

While shooting a landscape, take care not to keep the horizontal line in the middle. When emphasising the vastness of a blue sky or the fantastic cloud patterns, keep the horizon below the centre. For a river bank or sea shore with a few elements of attraction, try to keep keep the horizon above the cente. (Fig 4).

Dont keep the horizon in the middle

(Fig 4) Dont keep the horizon in the middle | Photo: Amit Rane

Keep human or manmade elements as a part of a landscape photograph. That provides scale to the image and depicts the vastness of Mother Nature (Fig 5).

Keep human or man-made element in a landscape for scaling

(Fig 5) Keep human or man-made element in a landscape for scaling | Photo: Amit Rane

Many a times we are so focused on the primary object of interest, we forget about the background completely. A smooth, creamy background (bokeh) adds great value to an image not only because it makes the primary object of interest appear much more prominent and sharper, but it also smoothens out all possible distractions from the background. We have discussed this technique in earlier issues (Fig 6).

A clean background is important

(Fig 6) A clean background is important | Photo: Caesar Sengupta

Finally, we come to perspective, or the angle of viewing an image. Perspective can be immensely affected by the focal length of the lens. The difference in perspective between an image shot with a wide angle lens and one shot using a longer focal length lens is easily understood. Positioning yourself differently can also change the perspective of an image completely. A very useful exercise, particularly for ground dwelling birds or animals, is an eye-level perspective achieved by lying down flat on the ground. This offers infinity as the background and thus a fantastic bokeh of the image (Fig 7).

Ground level perspective can be pleasing

Ground level perspective can be pleasing | Photo: Caesar Sengupta


Cover Photo by Caesar Sengupta


Read also:  Playing Tricks with Light 


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About the Author /

A dedicated wildlife conservation photographer, Caesar is Founder of Dr Caesar Photography, Founder of DCP Expeditions LLP, also a freelance writer, trainer and National Geographic award winner. He is an MD, Medical Microbiologist by profession, who conducts regular wildlife photography workshops and field expeditions across the country and abroad.

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