Points of interest
Point of interest, sometimes referred to as the centre of interest, is probably the most important element in any photographic composition. If your photography has any goal at all then at the most basic level it has to capture or record a subject or point of interest. In order for that image to become good or even acceptable, then your photograph needs to emphasise the importance of your point of interest.
In Composition An Introduction we already discussed a few of the elements that the eye needs to take in on a journey into and around your photograph but before you start with that you must first begin with a clear idea of what the important parts of your image are.
Any picture needs to have point of interest to make it begin to be pleasing to the eye. Pictures with too many of these can be frustrating to look at. Although not a photograph, think about a Where’s Wally? illustration. The whole point of those drawings are to confuse the viewer and to frustrate the eye. By design a Where’s Wally illustration does not allow the eye to be drawn to any one single point, it doesn’t lead the eye in any direction and it follows no traditional rule of composition. In fact they are the perfect example of anti-composition or a puzzle for the eye if you will.
If you have a busy scene you will have to really consider how you will make your centre of interest easily identifiable.
As we continue to discuss more of the rules of composition you must always go back to why you are following a particular rule. That reason should be to emphasise and communicate its point or centre of interest.
How a subject is framed in an image really does show the difference between an amateur happy snap and a considered and more “professional” photograph.
Years ago when I worked on cruise ships we had to photograph thousands of people in similar situations exactly the same way. Even though we were using digital cameras there was no time to crop or edit the pictures before we printed them. This meant we had to get the subject placement perfect every time which isn’t as easy as it sounds when your taking hundreds of photos in a short space of time. We had a saying “apples and balls cropping” which was basically cropping the photo so that the top of the frame would be if they had an apple on their head and the bottom of the frame cut them off at the erm……just below the waist.
This is just one example of an acceptable 3/4 style portrait but it it by no means a perfect rule.
When you are trained to photograph this way it certainly stops you from leaving too much headroom above a subject though!
When considering subject placement there are a few factors to take on board. Use a rule of thirds grid overlay to help position your subject. Ideally you will want the subject to be positioned at or within the intersections of the grid. Even of a subject is off centre if it is placed along a rule of thirds grid line it will still look good and not be too confusing for the eye.
Ultimately what we are trying to achieve is balance within our frame. We never want too much of one thing or not enough of another.
If we achieve this in camera then we are going to create better images.
Practice framing your subject following the apples and balls rule. Try photographing people in different situations, they can be sitting at a table or standing in a field, whatever you like.
Stretch that rule a bit further and compare your images. When do you feel there is too much headroom in your images?
Juxtaposition is the art placement of two subjects to create contrast or to compliment each other. It can either be intentional or accidental and more often that not its intentions can be subtle.
To see a reoccurring example of juxtaposition just open any newspaper. Headlines and images are designed to compliment each other but sometimes editors add in other non-related images from other stories to a spread which confuse the overall message of the page.
This is the power of clever juxtaposition but of course editors will always plead ignorance.
In photography juxtaposition is a common occurrence as many images have more than one subject in the frame. To form an image which can fully utilise the juxtaposition of two elements try and think of them as primary and secondary subjects.
For example here’s an old favourite wedding photography trick that was made popular by sites like Flickr.
The wedding rings are the primary subject and the shadow in a heart shape would be the secondary. Actually this image has a third element which is the book and is usually a bible.
All these elements brought together make the message of the image has all that more stronger.