Vacation Photos: Composing The Keeper
Who's headed away on vacation for winter break? If you are, congratulations on making me very jealous! As I write this the snow has already piled up outside my kitchen window to a point where I can no longer see over the drift – it's just a blank white canvas filled with dreams of tropical islands and fruity umbrella drinks. They may need to send a rescue team with a helicopter and a rope ladder to get me out of here!
For those of you with plans to wing your way to the sunny south, I have no doubt you will be taking along a camera to capture at least a few snaps of the sandy beaches and palm trees so let's talk about a basic tool of composition – The Rule of Thirds. The rule of thirds is based on the idea that the frame of a photo is divided into three sections both vertically and horizontally, creating nine sections.
The Rule of Thirds
The general rule of thumb and a great place to start when composing a landscape photo is to think of the horizontal thirds in terms of the sky (background) being the top third, water (main subject) as the middle third and the sand (foreground) filling in the bottom third.
Use the vertical thirds for placement of people and objects. Placing subjects at the point where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect – also known as the sweet spots – tends to create movement and balance in a photograph by creating focal points.
In this shot the sky makes up the top third. The hills, barn and reddish tops of the corn fill the middle third with the bottom section filled with the recognizable green corn stalks. It's very balanced and the eye is drawn to the barn placed very near a sweet spot.
Rules were made to be broken!
Now that you know the rule – break it!
Not every shot is made better by exactly following the rules. Although the heads of the people/animals are almost perfectly placed in those sweet spots, the background takes up two thirds instead of just one. All the busy stuff that sets the scene is contained in the bottom third leaving room in the top two thirds to allow the subjects to take centre stage.
Bottom line – do what works. As always, play with it and have a good time. We had a great time breaking the rules at Nova Scotia's Lawrencetown Beach during a 2014 hurricane.