How to optimise your photos for online viewing.
A digital camera.
This is a very philosophical question and gets to the heart of why we take pictures at all. Other than photos taken for records (for passports, or for scientific or medical purposes), photographers generally want their photos to have some kind of impact with their viewers whether pleasing, confrontational, shocking, beautiful, calming or exciting. The ability to stir an emotion in the mind of the viewer is, some would say, the sign of a great photograph. Even photographers working with limiting or extreme conditions (war, bad weather, secrecy, limited time or access) will still strive to deliver a photograph with meaning.
Composition is just one way of deliberately constructing a photograph to make it, if nothing else, better than average and slightly less dull. At its best, good composition lends a photograph impact, tension, energy and interest (and the opposites if that is what is required by the photographer).
Over the next 9 weeks we will be looking at lots of different ways of using aspects of composition to add interest to your photographs. You won't ever need to use them all at once, but try introducing them to your photography and see how they lift your snapshots to another level.
There are many mathematical explanations for the rule of thirds, but all you need to know is that if you place the important bit of your photograph a third of the way in from any edge, it will make for a more interesting picture. And if you can get it a third of the way in from two edges it might be even more pleasing.
It's easier to visualise than to explain:
This is a nice picture of a butterfly. Superimposing the 4 possible 'third of the way in from each edge' lines, and we can see that the butterfly is dead centre.
Take a step to the left and frame the butterfly off centre a bit (roughly on one of the 'rule of thirds' lines), and the picture is somehow more pleasing and a bit more dynamic even though the subject matters is identical.
Another nice picture with some dynamic waves and interesting sky; but the horizon is dead centre and imposes a flat, dull feel to the picture. Contrast with this photo:
Here the horizon has been dropped to run along the bottom line (AND the cloud formation lies along the other horizontal line).
One last example in portait format:
Here the body of the bird lies on the intersection between 2 lines, and the bird and its reflection lies along the right hand vertical line.
Try elevating snapshots to well composed photographs simply by positioning the main focus of the photo onto a rule of thirds line, or the intersection between 2 lines. If you get it bang on the intersection and have little else going on it might look a bit contrived, so experiment a bit. Composition is a very personal thing, so different people might like different photos. Take your camera or phone out with you all day, and take photos of things that might seem mundane, and see if you can make them interesting with careful composition. The key is deliberate placement. This doesn't happen by accident, you have to think about it. In the fullness of time it will become second nature, but you need to start by being very conscious about how you want the photo to look.