Photography Composition and the “Rule of Third”

What makes a good photograph? Art is very subjective and photography is an art form. However in photography we have rules that if you follow it could lead to a good photographs.

In photography we just have our view finder as a guide. That’s our point of view that we project to the world. There’s a reason why we have so many different lens option out there. Contrast to a painter where he or she starts with a blank canvas and project something into the canvas with paint.

To make a good photo we start with understanding foreground, mid ground and background. A good landscape photograph has all three in focus hence it could be a good photograph.

One rule that we learn in composing our shot is “The rule of third”. Basically this rule state that if we have our subject in the third part of the frame then our eyes will draw to that. It’s an anchor for our audiences to view our photograph. See above photo of my fingers point to as an example.

But rules are there so it could be to be broken once you learnt it first. We have so many shots of talking head where this rule is broken. Dead centre is deadly after all. Yes this composition is best as we have nothing to hide. You are the the centre of attention with right lighting and subject, this is the best to guide our viewer.

Hence rule of third is broken here. Imagine with the talking head on TV and Youtube and the person is on the side without any supporting texts or graphics? It would be not too long before we switch off right? So rule of third has it place. Learnt it first then break it.

Compose with Light and Shadow

Composition with light and shadow in mind when you frame your shots. With light, we categorized it into two group. Hard lighting or Soft lighting. How do we know if it’s a hard light or soft lighting? We look at the opposite of light and that’s the shadow.

With hard light the shadow is very harsh or hard. The shadow created by the light project a hard edge, on the other hand soft lighting create smooth edge which is pleasing if you photograph people.

As a landscape shooter we want to photograph in soft light most of the time. And the best soft light we get in a normal day is the Golden Hour and Blue Hour. Golden Hour is when the sun about to rise or set. That’s the best time to photograph anything. The lighting is soft and sometime dramatic.

Blue hour is when the sun just set and we have roughly 10-15 minutes where the sky becomes blue. I don’t know how this happen maybe it got to the with the atmosphere at the time and it makes great photography. After that period the sky become dark and it’s not a good photography in my opinion. Great for cityscape if you can capture this period.

As a timelapse shooter we have to think in terms of time as well. For example we could shoot in hard light and our subject could be the shadow that the tree cast on the ground. If you this scene then the shadow moves and become longer as the sun about to set. Could create a dramatic timelapse.

But for me personally I shoot in the golden hour most of the time and my main subject is the clouds. This is where the most drama in lighting and requires great skills in timelapse to capture the whole experience in one shot. I know someone that have solved this for us and it could be my next post. Check out my video if you want to see me explain this concept of Rule of Third and hear my sexy voice.

Gear Used/Demonstrated for Video and Photos: All Links are Affiliated
Galaxy S8
Rode Wireless Go
Rode Microphone Videomicro
Manfrotto tripod
Benro Aero 4 Travel Angel Video Tripod
Panasonic Lumix G7
Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f2.8
Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm
B+W 58mm 10-stop ND Filter
B+W 58mm Circular Polarizing Filter


Published by Travis Chau

I'm a freelance makeup artist from Sydney, Australia. If you hang around creative people long enough you well get the bug to create as well. So now I am into photography, timelapse photography and maybe video/film later.

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