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Today, the continuation of Photography 101! (I feel like an American TV-host saying this!)
In the previous chapter we talked about the basics, some important terms in photography and how to change the way you look at things. If you haven't read that chapter yet, you should! Check out the first chapter here:
Photography 101: Basics and Looking
Please make sure to read that before you start chapter two down below. 

Photography 101: A photography guide

Chapter two: Composition and Location

Welcome to Chapter Two of Photography 101! Today we will be talking about something that has always proven very important to me in photography: composition and location.

Composition
In photography, and pretty much all visual art-forms, composition is crucial. Composition can either make or break your image, it can make your image intriguing or utterly boring.
A quick overview of all the composition topics that will be discussed in this chapter:

  •  Rule of thirds
  •  Rule of odds
  •  Rule of space
  •  Simplification

Even though all this may sound very simple, it’s not. Composition is, in my opinion, a grey area. Something like a “correct” or “wrong” composition does not exist, however, a “good” or “bad” composition do.
According to wikipedia, “composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art.”

“The term composition means 'putting together,' and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing to photography, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, depending on the context.”

Rule of thirds
When I first started out in photography and learned about composition I learned about the rule of thirds.
Rule-of-Thirds-Grid-Rectangle by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

The rule of thirds is a rule of thumb for your composition. From my own experience I have learned that cropping your photo, or shooting it following this diagram, can (and likely will!) make your photo more interesting than when you just point and shoot.
The lines you can see in above diagram are positioned at exactly one third of your image, this goes for the horizontal and the vertical lines. The places where the lines cross are the places in the image where our eyes usually dwell first. When you look at above diagram, you’ll notice the first thing you see are the red crosses in the image. This is not just because they are red…

Rule-of-third by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

When you look at this diagram, your eyes will still drift to the place where the lines cross.
I was once told that our eyes will go to the places where the lines intersect first because of the direction we read in. I have to admit that I have no idea how this works, but it somehow does.

Take a look at this photo of mine:

Oi Joulunajan Ihmiset by Yuukon
(Click to open!)
Now let's see what happens when we overlay the rule of thirds diagram:
Ss+(2016-02-21+at+02.37.51) by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

As you can see in this overlay, all the important elements, such as the horizon and where about the sky starts are all on the horizontal lines-ish. Some people would say that “balances” this photo out well, even though the point where the lines intersect and the vertical lines don’t have much of a function. This guideline has always proven useful to me with landscape photos, in other photos it often just doesn't feel right for me to use it.

Now take a look at this photo I took of my cockatiel Coco:

Coco V by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

Cute, right?

When we overlay the rule of thirds diagram, you will see that there is not much that intersects with the diagram:

Ss+(2016-02-21+at+02.43.25) by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

However, this is still an interesting composition. Coco is on one of the lines, but not the part of him that is in focus. The thing that makes this photo interesting, to me, is the fact that Coco is practically walking into the lens, that his face is in focus and he is looking right at us. Now you may think, what does that have to do with composition? Everything. Composition isn’t just where you place something, it’s also what is in focus and what isn’t. Coco’s face being in focus here is what makes the picture. 

If I were to crop this according to the rule of thirds, it would look a lot different.
Ss+(2016-02-21+at+02.49.32) by Yuukon Ss+(2016-02-21+at+02.50.26) by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

As you can see, Coco loses his space to move (more about this in “rule of space” in a bit) in both of these crops, he also loses his feet in both, which makes it look a bit… awkward, I’d say. In one of them he even loses his wing. As you can see, this rule of thumb doesn't work for all photos, and recognizing when it works and doesn't work is one step closer to creating a good composition.

When I just started out taking photography more seriously, I used this rule of thirds a lot. It really helped me develop a sense for composition and it helped me to see in what works with it and what doesn't. Just remember, this rule of thirds thing is one of many guidelines. It’s a personal preference which you want to use and which you don’t, but I do advise you to use if you’re just starting out, simply because it might help you in a way it helped me.

Rule of Odds
When you work with objects, and for instance, you work with flowers, or ducks as I did below, try to use the odd numbers. Even numbers are “safe” and mostly boring. When you place three flowers instead of two, your photo will be a lot more interesting.

A little example:

Untitled by Yuukon Img 9777-2 by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

The photo on the left has two ducks swimming in the same direction, but looking in different directions. The photo on the right has five ducks, and even though they are just sitting there, the odd number does it's job. 


Rule of Space
The rule of space is a very simple one: when your subject is looking towards one direction, it’ll help your photo to leave some extra space in that direction of your photo, so your subject has “space” to move or look at something.

Untitled by Yuukon Img 9388-2 by Yuukon
(Click to open!)
The photo on the left is the original, while I cropped the photo on the right more tightly. 

The photo above, for instance. The duck is swimming towards us, so giving her that extra space to move (left photo) will give your photo a more open feeling. When you take a look at the photo on the right, it's much tighter and it has a closed attitude, so to speak. 

Simplification
When there are a lot of things going on in a photo, this can be distracting the viewer from the main-subject. When there is a single subject in your photo, you should try to work around other distracting things. You can try to change your angle, wait for a minute for that car to pass by or perhaps move your subject to a calmer location if possible. This also relates directly back to chapter one, when I talked about opening up your aperture to shallow your depth of field, which blurs the background.

Some other guidelines that I will not be discussing right now, but you can ask me questions about if you would like some explanation on it:

  • The direction followed by the viewer's eye should lead the viewer's gaze around all the important elements in the photo before it leads out of the photo

  • You should try to avoid placing your subject in the centre of your image, instead, try to move it (slightly) in another direction

  • The horizon should not be in the middle. In a landscape, the horizon should be higher, to put focus on the land, while on a skyscape the horizon should be lower to focus on the sky, for instance.

So, now that we've tackled that, let’s move on to the next subject of this chapter:


Locations
When it comes to locations, it’s important to remember that they look different every moment of every day. There are a lot of things that influence what a location looks like:

  •  Weather

  •  Time of day

  •  Movement

….and so on


Weather and time of day are probably the biggest influences on the way something looks. Bright sun can make a location look cheerful, rain can make it look depressing and fog can turn it mysterious, to name a few. During sunset or sunrise, light will be warmer, shadows will be softer, there will be less contrast in your surroundings.

But during the middle of the day, when the sun is at it’s peak, shadows will be harsh and dark, light will be cooler and there will be more contrast around you.
It's important to know what kind of light you'd like to work with, so you can go out the time of day that gives you that light.

“Perfect location” is the kind of name I try to avoid for locations. I don’t think any location is perfect, because locations change, and will be different every minute of every day. Going somewhere at noon today and going to the same spot tomorrow and perhaps the next day will show you that it’s never the same.

So, if you visit a location, and it isn't right for what you want, simply come back later! Over time you will learn what location is suited best for what you want in which conditions, and you’ll anticipate on that. 


Eramaan Viimeinen by Yuukon
(Click to open!)

So in short, composition is a very important factor to your photo. Composition is a huge part of what your photo will feel like to viewers, and even though composition isn't the only important thing to keep in mind when taking a photo, it is very big. It’s very difficult to define which composition is “good” and which is “bad”, often, to me, it is just a feeling. It feels good or it doesn't. If it doesn't feel good, I try something else or ditch the photo. 
That said, always shoot multiple photos, especially if you’re starting out! Taking photos of one subject in several compositions and from several angles will help you develop an eye for composition, though, realizing why you place your subject in a certain composition or photograph it from that specific angle helps.
We live in a digital age, which means we are not limited by how many exposures you have on a film-roll any more. Don’t delete photos you don’t like today, there might be a hidden gem somewhere in there when revisiting them at a later point.

With that we conclude chapter two on composition and locations! Like with the first chapter, I really hope this helps, and thank you so much for reading! Do not hesitate to ask me any questions if something is unclear, I am happy to help and explain. If you want some feedback, feel free to approach me.


In the next chapter we will be talking about lighting.


xoxo
Yuukon

PS: If you've enjoyed this lesson, 
Please donate points if you can, so I can extend my premium membership and keep posting!
If you want to learn even more and receive positive feedback on your works, please join my group PhotographyGuide!

Photography 101: Chapter 01: Basics - Looking
Photography 101: Chapter 03: Lighting
Photography 101: Chapter 04: Light sources and WB
Photography 101: Chapter 05: RAW and Basic Editing
Photography 101: Chapter 06: Gear


Skin by SimplySilent
Add a Comment:
 
:iconriversidesandbrother:
Riversidesandbrother Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
i just heard the rule of odd and space..haha
thank you..nice tips :)
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2018   Photographer
I am glad to hear it has been helpful to you! Feel free to also check out the other chapters!
Reply
:iconmaresasinclair:
MaresaSinclair Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2017
I never heard of the rule of space before.  Wow, thank you for that.  Very interesting article.
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2017   Photographer
Glad it was helpful to you!
Reply
:iconcandiottitiger:
candiottiTiger Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
This is priceless information... Thank you really much yuukon. This was really helpful! :happybounce: 
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2017   Photographer
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconfootaches:
FootAches Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2016
This is all very useful to know, thanks for the guide! 
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2016   Photographer
I'm glad it's useful! Let me know if you have questions! :eager: 
Reply
:iconchenria:
Chenria Featured By Owner May 9, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Great breakdown on composition. I just activated the grid on my camera's display to remember to try to pay more attention to it.
I was also surprised how right you are with the "odds"... pictures with 3 flowers look somehow more interesting than pictures with the same flowers where I only photographed 2... 
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner May 9, 2016   Photographer
I'm happy to hear the chapter is useful to you dear! :huggle:
Reply
:iconjoachim-hagen:
joachim-hagen Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
"You should try to avoid placing your subject in the centre of your image, instead, try to move it (slightly) in another direction."

As far as I am concerned I think - or feel - that to move the object just slightly off-center (just a few millimeters) creates a sense of imbalance. I think it should either centered or clearly not centered at all.

As for the horizontal lines in the rule of thirds grid: I keep it in mind and try to regard it in my next photos. Thanks for sharing.

Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2016   Photographer
It realy depends on your subject if that works or not ;) It's something you'll learn to see over time.

Glad to hear it was helpful for you!
Reply
:iconswifty52:
Swifty52 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
This is very helpful! Thanks!
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2016   Photographer
Glad to hear that! Also check out the first chapter!
Reply
:iconswifty52:
Swifty52 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I will! Thanks so much!
Reply
:iconamoddatye:
amoddatye Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
nice write up
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2016   Photographer
Thank you!
Reply
:iconnightshimer:
NightShimer Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016
This is very helpful :happybounce:  i am sooooo going to use some of these tips in future, Thanks
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016   Photographer
I'm very happy to hear that! Also check out the first chapter!
Reply
:icondaghrgenzeen:
Daghrgenzeen Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
:happybounce:
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:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2016   Photographer
:woohoo:
Reply
:iconbyfrankiec:
byfrankiec Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2016
Great chapter!!! This helped me so much. I'm going to try to incorporate what I've learned in my next photos. Thanks again! :aww: 
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2016   Photographer
I'm very happy to hear that! You can show your results in :iconphotographyguide:! :happybounce:
Reply
:iconbyfrankiec:
byfrankiec Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2016
Thanks! I sure will! :aww: 
Reply
:icontrekatu:
trekatu Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for making these I'll try my hand at this once I have acquired ze camera.
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016   Photographer
I'm happy to hear you find my guide useful! You might also want to consider my group :iconphotographyguide:, our focus is positive feedback, helping others and learning from eachother :nod:
Reply
:iconlemgras330:
lemgras330 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for this Monique! :heart:

I'm collecting this info for when I take out my camera! :happybounce:
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016   Photographer
I'm very happy to hear this is useful to you Cher! :woohoo: Show me the results?
Reply
:iconlemgras330:
lemgras330 Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yes, I will... on those rare occasions when I have my camera! :laughing:
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016   Photographer
Wonderful! Can't wait to see what you come up with! :huggle:
Reply
:iconfallisphoto:
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Edited Feb 28, 2016  Professional General Artist
In my experience, the rule of thirds is not really a rule that works that well. It is certainly not infallible. It often does not work for symmetrical compositions, where centering the subject usually works better and the more the subject is facing to one side, the more space should be on that side, sometimes exceeding the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds seems to work best when the subject is facing about 45 degrees to one side or the other. At best, the rule of thirds gives you a good starting point. It seems to work better vertically (using the top and bottom lines) than it does horizontally.

There are also other ways of drawing the viewer's attention to focal points in a composition. You might also bring up leading lines (objects in the composition that lead the eye along a path that, ideally, helps to bring the viewer's attention to the focal point of the composition). There is also the concept that the eye is strongly drawn to contrasts and to the color red. In portraits, for example, photographers avoid white shoes like the plague, because they are extremely likely to contrast strongly with every other element in the composition and become the focal point of the composition, rather than the subject's face. Another way to draw the viewer's attention to a focal point is to use elements in the composition to frame it. In fine art and figure photography, where the subject is viewed as an art object rather than as a human being, the rule of thirds is far less likely to be adhered to than in something like portraiture. On the other hand, it seems to work very well on most (not all) landscapes.

examples of symmetrical and centered compositions (warning: first two examples contain nudity):  fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art…  fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art…  fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art…

best example of a leading line I know of: tinyurl.com/h6kj5lt Note how the river leads you from point to point in the photo, finally terminating in the mountains in the background? This is one of my own examples, with the road acting as the leading line and directing the viewer's attention to the yellow foliage: fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art… 

An example of a framed compositional element (the mountain, framed by the silhouetted tree and black foreground):  fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art…

An example of how the eye is drawn to the color red: fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art…

and example of how the eye is drawn to contrasts: fallisphoto.deviantart.com/art… The most attention grabbing element in this photo is the white stone obelisk, because it contrasts with everything else.
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2016   Photographer
Hey! Thank you for your feedback, and while I appreciate it, I would prefer if you could send any further suggestions for my course to me in a private note. I don't want to confuse people who follow my course with different point of views from several people, and if you send your suggestions to me in a private note I can take a look and see if it fits in my course, and if it does, I will mention you made the suggestion.
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:iconflamingodancer123:
flamingodancer123 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2016
Beautifully done Yuu!! Many photographers will be grateful for this lesson!!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with others and with :iconsharpenededge: always a pleasure to do so!!!
Reply
:iconyuukon:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2016   Photographer
Thank you Cathy! :love:
Reply
:iconflamingodancer123:
flamingodancer123 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2016
You are very welcome Monique!!
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