You must become thoroughly familiar with the camera
and learn how the operation of each control alters the
image. Experiment with the camera and look at the
results carefully to see if they meet your expectations.
With experience and knowledge of your equipment, you
begin to think through your camera so you are free to
concentrate on composition. Devote serious study to the
principles of good composition. Study books and
magazine articles on composition. You should analyze
various media: motion pictures, TV, magazines, books
and newspapers, and evaluate what you see. What is
good about this picture or that TV image? What is bad
about it? What principles of good composition could
you apply in a different way to make the picture better.
Good or correct composition is impossible to define
precisely. There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow that
ensure good composition in every photograph. There are
only the principles and elements that provide a means
of achieving pleasing composition when applied
properly. Some of these principles and elements are as
Center of interest
Viewpoint and camera angle
Shapes and lines
As you study these principles of composition, you
should soon come to a realization that some are very
similar and overlap one another a great deal.
Because all or most of these principles must be
considered and applied each time you take a picture, it
may all seem quite confusing at first. With experience
you can develop a sense of composition, and your
consideration and application of the principles will
become almost second nature. This is not to suggest that
you can allow yourself to become complacent or
careless in the application of the principles of
composition. Doing so will be immediately obvious
because the results you produce will be snapshots, not
The principles of composition that follow apply
equally to both still and motion media photography.
CENTER OF INTEREST
Each picture should have only one principal idea,
topic, or center of interest to which the viewer's eyes are
attracted. Subordinate elements within the picture must
support and focus attention on the principal feature so it
alone is emphasized.
A picture without a dominant center of interest or
one with more than one dominant center of interest is
puzzling to a viewer. Subsequently, the viewer becomes
confused and wonders what the picture is all about.
When the picture has one, and only one, dominant point
of interest, the viewer quickly understands the picture.
NOTE: Point of interest, as used here, has the
same meaning as center of interest; however, using the
term point of interest prevents giving the impression that
the center of interest should be located in the center of
The specific topic, idea, or object to be portrayed
must be set in your mind as you prepare to take a picture.
When there is nothing in the picture to attract attention
to a particular area or object, the eyes wander throughout
the scene. The center of interest may be a single object
or numerous ones arranged so attention is directed to
one definite area
When the center of interest is a single object that
fills most of the picture area or one that stands out boldly,
such as a white sail against a background of dark water,
attention is attracted immediately to it. As may be
expected, not all subjects are as simple to arrange or as
bold and impressive.
A photographer usually has at his or her disposal
many factors or elements that can be used and arranged
within the picture area to draw or direct attention to the
primary idea of the picture. Some of these elements are
lines, shapes, human figures, tone, and texture.
Human figures attract attention more strongly than
almost any other subject matter and unless they are the