This is the fifth part of the series Studio Photography: Shooting the $2million image - Composition.
The human eye interprets images in the following order: movement, colour, shape, content. If you wish to create images that sell products, change social behaviour, win election campaigns or merely persuade people to invest their evenings in watching a particular TV show, then you need to construct the image with these in mind.
Photographic images, of course, are static. You may have played with Flixels or other semi-moving images, or Apple’s Live View, which give the impression of being drawn from the world of Harry Potter, but, in most cases, images are static.
Or are they? The art of composition is very simply the art of creating movement in an entirely static object.
If you have studied cinematography or videography, then one of the early pieces of advice that you may have been given is that it’s about moving pictures, not about moving cameras. This has been relaxed a little over the last twenty years, but the basic principle of video and its ilk is that the camera remains stable, either fixed, or smoothly panning or tracking, while the action moves. What you may not have been told is that the way we watch a moving image is very different from the way we interpret a static picture. In viewing a moving image, our eyes follow the movement for 90% of the time, and only occasionally look at what else is happening.
When we look at a still image, our eyes rove around the image, and they do so according to the principles we usually call the principles of composition.
Over the last thirty years I’ve been collecting principles which seem to be universal. Most books will offer you the rule of thirds and not much more. There’s no space here to explain all of them, but these are the principles on which I’ve been constructing large-scale advertising campaigns and major product rebrands. If you walk around an art gallery, you’ll see them in many great (and lesser) works of art.
Let’s take a problem in composition which has stymied many photographers: the CD cover. CD covers are square, which is the worst possible compositional form, as it creates no tension to direct the eye. This makes it ubiquitous for many kinds of images, but also gives you no help.
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