A few months ago, I started the Mastering Composition series of articles. The goal of these articles was not only to give some useful composition tips for beginners, but to also engage our readers with small assignments. The assignment given to you in the first article of the series has already been addressed in the recent discussion. In this short article, we will address the assignment given in the “Open and Closed Composition” piece.
As I was working on the “Composition in Photography: Assignment Discussion” article and upcoming Lightroom Crop Tool article last night, I came across a feature in Lightroom that I had not previously used. I love it when that happens. Realizing that the software tool I enjoy using and find to be very versatile is actually even more functional than I thought, is pure joy. In this article, I will teach you how to quickly check your composition in Lightroom against known rules and guidelines, such as the Golden Ratio or the Rule of Thirds (and, yes, these are indeed two separate things), by overlaying the image with them.
How Does It Work?
Basically, Lightroom allows you to overlay any image with several different guidelines, called Crop Grid Overlays. To do that, select the image you want to check against one of the available guidelines and engage Crop Tool, which is found right below the Histogram. Alternatively, you can hit the “R” key on your keyboard. Once the tool has been engaged, notice that the selected image is already overlaid with the default Rule of Thirds Grid Overlay. Hit “O” on your keyboard to toggle between all 7 available Grid Overlays. Use “Shift + O” (Windows PC) to rotate the guidelines. You can further customize the behavior of the Overlays (or Guides) by selecting the Crop tool to enable the settings in the Tools->Tool Overlay and Crop Guide Overlay menus.
A few months ago, I started working on our “Mastering Composition” series articles. The idea behind them was to cover all the basics of composition in photography (and, consequently, visual arts in general) starting with some extremely simple concepts, and also provide assignments for beginner photographers to make the educational process fun and engaging. With some luck and effort from our side, the project would gain momentum and we’d be able to not only touch more advanced composition rules / theories and discuss specific examples sent in by our readers (eventually), but also organize a few online and offline workshops along the way. Unfortunately, after writing just two articles, I had to put the project on a bit of a hold. Even worse, I did not assess the assignment results for a very long time. This assignment discussion is long overdue and it is about time I fixed my mistake! In this article, I will discuss the task and the answers provided by our readers under the first article of the series.
Before we begin, let me just remind you what the assignment was. I asked you to name basic varieties of composition you were familiar with. I also wanted you to list just one variety and try not to repeat types that have already been named by someone else – to make the assignment more interesting. The following image was provided as a hint for one of the more basic compositions types:
In the first article of our Mastering Composition series, we discussed the definition of the term “composition”. We also outlined the main goal of composition and talked about why it is such an important part of any work of art. As we dive deeper, it is necessary to define two discrete types of composition with photographic context in mind. One such type is called “open composition”, while the other one, predictably, “closed composition”. These two types are further split into several smaller branches. Our readers have already mentioned some of them previously, such as symmetrical composition. These subtypes will be discussed in separate articles over the next few weeks. As before, an assignment for beginners is waiting for you to participate in at the end of the article.
1) A Brief History Lesson
You may be surprised to hear about open and closed composition. Where did these definitions come from? Well, I am quite certain a lot of our readers realize or know that photography has always been very close to painting, and is so even today. In fact, at some point photographers were actually seen as rivals to painters. Only, their art and craft got away without the skill of wielding a brush normally associated with painting (which painters were quick to notice and criticize). Here is a very brief summary on how photography and painting are related.
With the first article in our new Mastering Composition series, it is only fitting that we start off by discussing the very definition of our main topic. In this article for beginner photographers, I will outline the general meaning of the term “composition” in art. I will also briefly discuss the goal of composition, define what a good composition is and why it is such an important part of any work of art. At the end of the article I will provide you with a simple question that is also a hint on what is to come in future articles.
1) General Definition of the Term
The term “composition” applies not only to visual arts, but to music, dance, literature and virtually any other kind of art. In certain contexts, such as writing, this term may not be as widely used, but is just as valid nonetheless. In general, the term “composition” has two distinctive, yet related meanings.