Over the last number of DigiKnow blog posts, we have addressed accessibility and best practices in many digital contexts. If you have been following our blog posts, you should have a better appreciation of accessibility, how to add Alt Text and you may have picked up a few other hints and tips regards Copyright and Creative Commons.

If you want to avoid the hurdles of Copyright and Creative Commons, why not make your own images? Copyright then belongs to you. Images can be drawn, digital art or created with a camera/smart phone.

This blog post will concentrate more on composition from a photography perspective to improve aesthetics. We’ll look at frame orientation, a basic composition (rule of thirds), planning a photograph and image resolution. There will be some helpful hints toward the end of the blog.

Frame Orientation

The frame is the available area of the film negative or digital sensor to capture an image. Frame orientations include landscape / portrait or square format.

Not all cameras can physically capture a square format image. However, if you foresee the resulting image as a square format, crop it to a square format using editing software. Phones can capture square format images.

Examples of landscape (wide), portrait (tall) and square format frame orientations
Examples of landscape (wide), portrait (tall) and square format frame orientations

Rectangular frames are the most widely used. Make the best use of the frame orientation to make the subject as large in frame as possible. For example, tall subjects should be captured in portrait orientation. Fit the frame to the size/shape of the subject.

Composition – what is it?

Composition isn’t only used in photography. In education, when writing essays, you are composing written text which will have an introduction, main body and summary. Music compositions are an arrangement of notes and musical instruments.

Composition in photography is how we arrange the subject within the frame (from our viewpoint) and in relation to other things within the frame.

Rule of Thirds

As a composition, the rule of thirds is the first ‘go-to’ rule or guide for novice photographers/image makers. Consider it more a guide.

The frame is split into nine equal parts with two vertical and horizontal lines. Where lines cross over, these are intersections as seen below (highlighted by the circles).

The intention is to place subjects along the lines or place them on the intersections. Thirds applies to all frame orientations.

Rule of thirds grid with intersections highlighted by circles
Rule of thirds grid with intersections highlighted by circles

The image below demonstrates how the rule of thirds can be used. The person is off-centre toward the right. The top foot touches the top third horizontal line and the bottom foot touches the bottom third horizontal line. The majority of the subject is on the top-right thirds intersection (where the vertical and horiztonal lines cross over).

Credit: Jake Hill

Close up of feet going up stairs (example of rule of thirds)
Credit: Jake Hill. Close up of feet going up stairs (example of rule of thirds)

Another example of thirds can be seen with the traffic shot below. This has subjects hitting three intersections.

Credit: Nabeel Syed. Traffic in the city.
Credit: Nabeel Syed. Traffic in the city.
Planning the Photograph

Before you take a photo, you need to plan what you are taking and why. Define your subject. This could be a person, an item or a scene. Include context. The person could be outside of a Queen’s building. Add in composition.

Below, the sculpture (subject) is placed on the left third whilst people walk through the scene.

Credit: D Casement. Students at McClay Library
Credit: D Casement. Students at McClay Library
Image Resolution

To understand image resolution, imagine a grid with X and Y Axis. Each pixel will have an X/Y location and a colour attributed to it. When the whole grid is filled in and zoomed out sufficiently, you see the image.

An example of this can be seen below. In the grid, each pixel has a location and colour.

Credit: D Casement. Students at McClay Library
Credit: D Casement. Students at McClay Library

Multiplying the number of pixels height by width will give the overall number of pixels in the image. If the image is straight out of a camera or phone, this figure would be expressed as megapixels.

Resolution differs depending on whether it’s print: a journal, newspaper or photographic print. This can range from 96 ppi (pixels per inch) to 300ppi. Web resolution is 72 ppi. Check specifications of where the image to appear.

Helpful Hints
  • Think about where your image is to appear (i.e., web / print, etc., and what size). Check image specifications online and in journals as to the quality and dimensions required!
  • Don’t resize the image larger than it’s physical height and width. It can end up looking distorted and/or low quality.
  • Don’t distort images.
  • Rule of thirds is a basic composition guide. Place the subject(s) off centre and take several photos of subjects in different places within the frame to give you choice later.
  • If photographing a person, focus on the eyes.
  • When taking photos, use simple/plain backgrounds.
  • Remember context. If you’re photographing a keynote speaker at a conference, get in some conference materials too.

To summarise, this blog post has looked at frame orientation, rule of thirds, planning a photograph, image resolution and a number of helpful hints to help you improve photo aesthetics and to get you thinking about how you intend to capture a photo before pressing the shutter release button.

Next week, DigiKnow will address another two compositions (photography based) and the cameras Automatic mode. Do join us then!


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