Look back a some work you have already produced. Try to identify –
- Where you followed the rule of thirds
- Where you changed the composition and what effect this had.
In the video for Assignment One, Skye is placed in a bulls eye composition which reviewing now might have worked best if he was in the rule of thirds. The scene changes as it pans and the man enters racing into the frame.
In the Visitor when it shows the cowering woman she has been positioned in the Rule of Thirds, I can’t remember whether I planned it as such, I think my thoughts were to frame them on either side of the divide, the man on the left and the woman on the right.
Reviewing the sequence I always place Anne on the lines of the Rule of Thirds and always on the right hand side leaving negative space to show the threat of the man on the left. Then later I frame her centrally to create a bit of drama and by changing her position in the frame shows that something is about to change.
Whilst I planned this exercise down to the infinitum I was surprised how often I’d actually changed composition but it added to the video rather than detracting attention.
Watch almost any television or film. Try to find.
- Examples of frames composed according to the rule of thirds
- Examples of composition balanced between shots
- Examples of the rules being broken
- Tension created by upsetting the balance
- Other distinct meanings suggested through visual balance.
I’ve recently been enjoying the fantastic ITV drama the Durrells so decided this was a good starting point. I watched the beginning in which the young Gerald is in trouble for feeding the rats behind the school building instead of attending lessons. This immediately shows the character of Gerald, a little bit different, an animal lover in which the whole ethos of the book is derived from.
The scene between the headmaster and Mrs Durrell and Gerald is compositionally balanced. Each transition is positioned so every character occupies their own half of the screen. The headmaster is a foreboding character filling most of his frame, standing up, aggressively. Whereas Mrs Durrell is on the other side of the frame with her son. The stances of the two reveal a lot too. As afore mentioned the headmaster seems imposing whereas in contact Mrs Durrell is a protective force shielding her son.
Natural framing is always aesthetically pleasing to the eye and I especially like this shot as Mrs Durrell and Gerald walk down the corridor. They are central in the composition and the eye is guided to them enhanced by the framing of the arch. I also love the concentric pattern that feels like walking into a mandala.
Into the Wild Gordon Buchanan
My guilty pleasure recently has been Into the Wild in which film maker Gordon Buchanan takes a celebrity into the wild and in three days has to show them wildlife. There have been otters, beavers, golden eagles and even basking sharks. It’s a brilliant concept and intensely enjoyable though sometimes can feel a little stilted when they’re struggling to locate wildlife and they rely on conversation.
The filming flicks from footage from the main cameraman then to what I assume is Gordon’s work, it’s amusing that on one frame it’s a grey sea and the next it’s suddenly a brilliant blue with saturated colours that punch out at the viewer.
What I love is that in wildlife documentaries you only have once chance to get the shot right because animals are unpredictable and if you mess it up it’s not going to come back and relieve the magical moment for you.
Gordon and Dermot O’ Leary were camping on the Isle of Sky and while packing up the tent they suddenly realised they weren’t alone. The camera shot from the packing of the tent to suddenly this fantastic shot of the stag. The stag fits nicely in the composition of the Rules of Thirds and is majestic against the backdrop of the stunning mountains.
The scenes are balanced as Gordon and Dermot are shown with their binoculars trained outside the frame and at the stag who is shown on the left hand side.
This a nice shot where the composition is of a triangle, Gordon and Dermot are the base of the triangle with the stag the apex, seemingly fitting as the stag was what they were setting out to see.
The triangle composition again is here and it’s a really nice shot, with their bodies at the base of the triangle you feel like you’re an onlooker gazing past them and looking at the stag yet still including them. Here is a shot where the composition is no longer balanced. It’s a clash of the triangle composition but breaks the rules in such everything is out of kilter. Yet at the same time it’s a powerful shot as man stands so close to nature, both studying each other, the wide aperture brings the three closer to together especially with what I assume is a telephoto lens to compress perspective. It just captures the magic of seeing an an animal so close up.
Some of the most known compositional tools are
- Using lines to draw attention to something or to control/manipulate/deepen perspective.
- Bulls Eye. I remember seeing a photo of an Arctic landscape, pure white but the black veins of a the sea breaking through that ice split down the middle in a perfect composition. Sometimes it can seem static but used correctly can be one of the most powerful techniques.
- My favourite the circle. That is enclosing the object in something circular. A circle is one of the most powerful composition elements as it automatically grabs attention and forces the viewers eye into the circle. It’s a double edged sword though as used incorrectly can shift attention to the wrong part of the image.
- Symmetry. Think how enchanting and absorbing mandalas are. Capturing a pattern increases interest, depth, perspective and can be used to direct the eye. It’s a wonderful compositional tool.
- Contrast – such as a wide aperture. The subject can stand out against the background.
- Selective colour. Where a scene can be black and white but an element of the photo is coloured. Such as the poor little Jewish girl in Schindlers List (I’ve never watched it but I’ve seen the red dress example many times since beginning this course)
- Negative space. A silhouette of an eagle against the backdrop of an empty white sky packs a punch and draws attention instantly to the bird.
- Layers, such as what we were learning about with perspective.