ArchingEleganceforMomACS3x5Howdy, all!

Next week I am giving a presentation about the rules of photography. I thought I would share the material from the full presentation with you for your edification and enjoyment. Work on the photo book First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective is almost complete, so my online presences should improve later this month. I’ll pick up the in-depth Photography Rules series in July, but I hope you enjoy its overview now.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[O*] Alycia


Photography as a Form of Art

Alycia Christine Sears ~ ~ 979-324-3458

A good photograph should inspire emotion and/or show a story.

Powerful photography relies on a strong composition to accomplish that end.

Composition is the way in which a photograph presents its main subject.

A subject is the most important part of the photograph. Just as a noun is the subject of a sentence, a noun is usually the subject of a photo. A photo’s subject is usually a person, animal, plant, place, or object.

Just as a musical score is composed of different notes, a photograph is composed of three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background.

Foreground: The “front” layer of the photo’s scene.

Middle Ground: The “middle” layer of the photo’s scene.

Background: The “back” layer of the photo’s scene.

A subject must be located in any of these layers, as long as it is in focus.


There are several RULES to help create beautifully composed photos:

Focus (No Fuzz Allowed!): A subject must be in sharp focus (not fuzzy or blurry) to help indicate to the viewer that it is the most important part of the photo.

Depth of Field (Tunnel Vision): The photo’s subject is in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time, this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they don’t distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject.

Centering (In a Bull’s Eye): The subject can be centered within the photo like a bulls-eye is the center of a target.

Rule of Thirds (Think Tic-tac-toe): Sometimes the photographer will divide a photo into thirds like the sections of a tic-tac-toe board. The  photo’s subject is then aligned in one third of the photo or at an intersection between two of the invisible tic-tac-toes lines.

Balance (Watch the See-Saw): Placing the subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can make the rest of the photo feel empty. To correct this, a photographer can add another object of lesser importance to help fill the space and add “weight” to the photo. Balance and leading lines can help establish relationships in a photo.

Leading Lines (Roads and Rivers): Lines in the photo draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. Leading lines often help link different elements in the photo to each other and usually start at the corner of the photo.

Framing and Flanking (We’re Surrounded, Sir!): Lines in the photo seem to frame (completely surround) or flank (border on only two sides) the subject. Frames can be any shape, but flanking must have two parallel lines running along either side of a subject.

Color and Contrast (Make it Pop!): The color of a subject will help distinguish it from the rest of the photo. In this case, the subject is the extreme in color compared to everything else — either the brightest color or the darkest color of the photo.

Close Ups (Way Too Personal): By being the largest thing in the photo, the subject is easily noticed by the viewer. This works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background.

Patterns and Symmetry (The Oddball Rule): Sometimes an interesting pattern can make a great photo subject. When this occurs, it is important for the photographer to break up the symmetry or pattern in some way. Doing so will introduce tension and add a focal point (a mini-subject) into the scene.


Other things to consider when shooting photos:

Saturation (Please Overdo it!): Saturation or saturated shooting refers to taking multiple photos of the same subject. This technique allows the photographer to experiment with the different photography rules to find the most dynamic and interesting shot.

Vertical or horizontal photos (Tall or Long?): All photography rules can usually work whether a photograph is vertical or horizontal, so feel free to experiment.

Viewpoint (It’s all about Perspective!): Shoot photographs from different angles and viewpoints. Instead of shooting everything from a standing position, try taking a photo of the subject from a kneeling or prone position. Also try shooting something from above the subject. The change of angle and perspective can add can add lots of interest to each image.

Cropping (You Cut off My What!): When shooting people and animals especially, photographers must pay attention to where they crop their subjects. The last thing that you want to do is make your subject look amputated! Crop where there are no natural breaks in the body such as midway up the thighs or just below the shoulders.

Sizes (Is Bigger Always Better?): Different photo sizes can change the photography rules. A standard photo has a ratio of 2:3 like that shown in a 4×6 inch photograph. Prints come in standard sizes of 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 8×12, 11×14, and larger. If you are worried about how the image size will affect rules like Leading Lines, Rule of Thirds, or Framing, stick with 4×6 or 8×12 prints and corresponding frames to minimize the damage done to photo composition.

Lighting (Get out Your Highlighters!): Lighting is THE most important part of photography composition! You cannot shoot a photo without light. Be careful to make sure that no part of any photo looks “bleached out” or “way too dark.” Balanced lighting or its lack will make or break any composition. Using light to “highlight” a subject will help it stand out against the rest of the photo.


Finally, the RULES are more like GUIDELINES anyway!

Feel free to experiment and have fun!