When I first started photography, I read everything I could find about classic composition within landscape photography. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of reading material out there. So in this post I want to offer you a quick guide to classic composition within landscape photography. That way you can spend less time reading, and more time out shooting.
Are you a landscape photographer? Check out this post on how to get the most out of a landscape photography location!
The purpose of composing an image
With the way you compose an image you want to set the mood for your viewer. What you choose to emphasize in your composition, will to a great extent decide how your viewer feels when seeing your image. So there’s no doubt a good reason why you’ll find so much written about classic composition within landscape photography.
The purpose of your composition is to lead your viewer through the image in the direction you intend for them to see it. You want to decide where your viewer stops to look closer, where they look next and what parts of the image they return to.
The rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a guideline for classic composition within landscape photography. By using the rule of thirds you divide your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The general idea is that you place your point(s) of interest close to where the horizontal and vertical lines meet. Following the rule of thirds will help you achieve balance in your image, and giving you a more dynamic image.
Even if the rule of thirds is a simple and great tool to use, you have to read the scene to decide if it’s right for the image you’d like to capture. When capturing a reflection for instance, it’s probably more important that the whole reflection of the subject is included in the image than placing the horizon according to the rule of thirds.
How to use leading lines
You can divide leading lines into four different categories; horizontal, vertical, diagonal and converging. But what role do they play in classic composition within landscape photography? And how do you use them successfully?
When you decide to use a natural leading line, be very careful to place yourself correctly so that the leading line works the way you want it to in your image. Often you’ll have to consider more than one leading line in a composition, so don’t forget the natural horizontal leading line if you’ve found the perfect converging one to include. If the leading lines don’t speak together, the image will often end up messy and out of balance.
Why foreground interest is important
There’s two reasons why you should think about the foreground when you compose a landscape image. First; you can use a strong foreground element to emphasize depth and separation between the different parts of your image. Second; you don’t want a boring foreground to take up valuable space in your image.
In classic composition within landscape photography typical elements that can be great to build foreground interest are flowers, rocks, ripples in sand or water, or leading lines like branches or a crack in the ground. Or maybe a trail?
Balance is key
When composing a landscape image we have to think about balance. If you don’t think about balance your image may seem tilted or off (even if your horizon is perfectly straight).
You can achieve balance in an image with thinking about how you place objects in relation to your main subject. If you’re composing with your main subject according to the rule of thirds, and the balance seems off, try placing another less interesting object in the diagonal intersection to achieve balance. Typically larger and brighter objects have more weight in an image, so make sure that the object isn’t larger or brighter than your main subject.
Landscapes may seem grand and majestic in front of you when you’re shooting them. When you sit down to edit the images however, you may not see it as anything particularly majestic or impressive. It’s often difficult to convey scale in an image without introducing a familiar object in the composition.
Incorporating scale into your composition will often be effective when you want your viewer to be impressed with the grandness of the landscape in front of you.
Learning by doing
And that’s it; a very quick guide to classic composition within landscape photography. If you’re like me you probably will head on out to try and capture some landscape images now. And then you get home only to find that your compositions should have been tweaked.
But most of all I hope that you remember that there’s always more to explore locally.