June 22, 2009 / Photography

Photographic composition

Written by Bruce Konkle

Basic elements of composition help strengthen all types of photographs that are in today’s photojournalistic yearbooks.

Dominance
The main subject in the photograph that you want people to see first

Subordination
Secondary objects in the photograph that can help strengthen the dominant element

Rule of Thirds
Divide the photo into thirds both vertically and horizontally; dominant subject should usually fall onto one of the four interest areas or points you have created

Eye Flow
Elements in individual photographs that lead the eye into and through the image

Contrast
Near black areas versus white (or lighter) areas of the photograph; can be used to help bring out or emphasize the dominant element

Mood
Every photograph should create some kind of mood, be it happy, sad, thoughtful; wait for the right moment that captures the overall feeling of the event

Leading Lines
Real or imaginary lines that lead the eye into the dominant element

Framing
Technique in which the dominant element or subject is framed by other objects

Angle of View
Think about the angle that will give you the best photograph in every shooting situation; avoid always using straight-on shots; get higher than or lower than your subjects

Texture
Sharp photographs should include detailed patterns so they seem very real, true to life

Backgrounds
In most cases keep them simple; make sure the background adds to, not distracts, from your dominant subject

Overall Simplicity
The photograph should have some kind of overall appeal, be it newsworthy or featurized; usually means combining lots of these general compositional elements

Bruce Konkle

Dr. Bruce Konkle's previous work experience includes being a journalism teacher and publications adviser at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. He is the former director of the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association and former director of the Carolina Journalism Institute.