Photography Composition in Minor Thirds and Other Ramblings.


8 ways to improve image compositions.


Quick review on the basics of composition.
Addressing the problems with image composition on a personal level.
8 ways to overcome the problem.

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How does one go about composing images? Where does one begin to bring about a certain, ideally aesthetically appealing, end to an image? Boy do I have an answer for you! Okay fine, I don’t. But let’s explore this.

If you google “how to compose an image” or something along those lines, you’d come across an ocean of articles about how to go about it. Some would talk about the rule of thirds, others believe more in the golden ratio, and then there are some of those from the discipline of architecture who would contest a better way to compose something. For those of you who would like to read more into that here is a pretty good book on photographic composition by Rissler. All those methods of composing have their merits, but I will avoid going into those like avoiding a plague altogether.

I am hoping at this point you have been through the struggles and actually know what all those above mentioned methods mean. If you don’t, well still might as well read because you will eventually come to this point.

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The Point

I wish someone had told me this years ago, like when I was still 19 and trying to find my way through the whole “Oh my god! the balance harmony is totally off, the symmetry is just…uggh……” you know, a teen-photographer-life-crisis? yeah that.

Well in any case, I have come to the conclusion that composition is something innate (hold your judgement horses) . Something that goes more than lining objects to some imaginary line on the screen. It goes deeper into what you see. Of course, we all see, in one way or another. But what I mean is visual influences that we have in our life and our perspective on story; Our Style.

You develop your senses to behave a certain way by practising. You know of the concept GIGO? Garbage in Garbage out? Well it means what it means. If you practice bad habits, nothing good is going to come out of it. I remember reading Haruki Murakami once where he states “ “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” It’s from his Norwegian Woods I think.

To make it more comprehensive, the more you feed your soul with good visual material, be it images, videos, design, places, architecture, the better you will eventually develop a taste for. Or atleast would find “your definition of good”. It’s something you need to have to know it kind of deals.

Over years, I have spent a good amount of time just looking at photos by some of the greats like Avedon, lindbergh, Roversi, Ritts, etc. etc. If you want to learn, learn to listen and see. That’s what has worked for me. Have I become some sort of great photographer? Heck no, I am still lousy. Just not as lousy as yesterday.

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Buy it if you will

Here’s what I would advise the 10 years younger me or the today’s you assuming you feel like I did or do.

1. Buy all the Peter Lindbergh books (or your favourite photographer and plan to beg, borrow, steal or starve for months because those books aren’t cheap).

2. Spend atleast 30 minutes everyday going through the photos in those books instead of eating because let’s face it you will be pretty broke by now.

3. Spend atleast 30 minutes everyday revisiting what you saw the day before in the books because you like punishing yourself because killing the weak will only give birth to strong.

4. Stop watching stupid shit on t.v. What you watch is what you make.

5. Look through the viewfinder, breathe, press that shutter. Now do it 100,000 times more in different settings. More you practice more you learn about yourself, eventually learn who you are as a photographer.

6. Let you reflexes take control and do not force anything. You will find your way.

7. Take your photos onto a big TV screen and see how they look from far.

8. Find a friend who is a composition nazi because nothing like having your heart ripped out by your best buddy when they tell you honest opinions about your images.

Concluding remarks

There are as many ways as there are people to get around plateaus. But the only constant is to keep trying. All these methods sound well and good on paper but it's tough as nails to apply them in real life. But so is the case with everything else in life. With every shutter release and image that you make, you are sub-consiously learning, so don't stop clicking. Find your real.