When composing an image, photography is a game of inches


posted Monday, August 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT


When composing an image, most of us know the basics and perhaps more importantly, we know what kind of images we like to create. There are certain hard and fast rules, such as the rule of thirds, but there are also other guidelines which require a bit more precision, such as not putting distracting elements near the edge of the frame or creating an otherwise imbalanced composition. When you're in the field and you have the luxury of time to scout and plan your shots, how precise do you have to be? Photographer Adam Gibbs discusses this topic in his latest video and he asks does an inch really matter when composing an image?

In the video below, we get to see the composition and question and follow along with Gibbs as he discusses individual elements of the scene in live view on his Nikon D850. The discussion raises numerous interesting points. It's important to know in your mind what it is you want an image to accomplish and how you hope a viewer works their way through the shot. It is all too easy to take for granted that an image is going to be viewed a certain way, ideally the same way you did when composing the frame. However, a viewer won't know how you want them to digest an image when they view it, nor will they be viewing it within the same context as you did at the time of capture.

For example, if you want them to follow a certain diagonal line but an element is in the way that takes them off path, that's a problem. It's a problem you might not have experienced yourself at the time. Or there could be a distracting element at the edge of the frame you never noticed, but a viewer could lock onto immediately and never quite get past it. These are prototypical cases where moving your camera an inch or two may make a massive difference in the final presentation. As we can see with Gibbs and his composition, a little goes a long way and you should never hesitate to try moving your tripod slightly if you feel like a composition isn't quite working.

(Via Adam Gibbs