On lines and frames
Lesson 14 Module 4
Part 2 of our lesson is building up on what we just introduced to you in part 1. On the last page we focused on how space around the subject can help your subject stand out more. Here, it's all about how the other elements within it can help or hinder how the viewer of the image 'consumes' the photo and is guided to the subject ( or not, as the case may be)
The two composition principles we are about to introduce to you are pretty straightforward and chances are you have already heard of them - but it’s one thing to have heard about something, and quite another to take the time to explore and use it.
The reason why I chose these two is simple - they follow quite neatly to the way our brain processes visual information and how our eye travels around the frame.
The first thing you need to know about your brain is that when it’s on, it’s constantly on the lookout for IMPORTANT information that can be meaningful to you. Maybe even to your survival? In order to do that, it needs to sift through all that visual info that comes in and pluck out the important bits.
There is usually A LOT of info to analyse so your brain likes a shortcut - if someone can make it easier for your brain to know what to look for, point it out, it gets instantly happier and it simply follows. It’s like playing where’s Wally and then playing Wally with a great big arrow pointing to Wally.
This is exactly what the two composition principles we are talking about - leading lines and frames - do to your images.
They guide your viewer’s eye around the frame, taking your viewer exactly where they need to look. This is simply efficient visual communication - that also happens to be very pleasing to us.
1. Leading Lines
We like to be shown where to look and get there straight away. We like to be ‘visually’ taken by the hand and led to the subject. And one of the easiest way of achieving it is to use lines or linear elements that already occur in nature.
Because if there is a line in your image – and it doesn’t need to be a straight line, or even a particularly well-defined line – our eyes will surely follow it.
This is to your advantage because if you can KNOW that the viewer’s eye will be following a line, all you need to do is make sure your subject is right at the end of it and that’s you done!
The lines that are easily identifiable and that you can take advantage of straight away are things which are all around you anyway – paths, roads, pavements, curbs. But even inside, there are often plenty of elements which can, if you position yourself more to the side and let the camera’s shooting angle follow the edge – stairs, edges of furniture. anything linear really
One important thing – the lines need to lead to your subject. It means the eye needs to follow the line first and THEN encounter your subject. If you plonk your child at the opening of a path, with the path visibly moving past them, the impact will be completely lost. They need to actually LEAD to them.
Try to take advantage of how perspective and the optics of your camera treat parallel lines too – the further they go, the more they converge, further strengthening the effect.
2. Frame within the frame
The second compositional element is creating a ‘frame’ within your image which surrounds your subject, acting a bit in the same way that making a circle with a highlighter around a word makes us look right at it.
And I don’t mean a ‘frame-frame’ like you sometimes see at the weddings where people peek through a decorative picture frame as the photographer takes their photo. I mean finding elements in nature that can create a full or partial frame around your subject and make them really stand out.
Those frames can come in many shapes and sizes. Look out for more than just physical shapes and formations – light, colour and texture can play the same way!
Check out the examples below – they should give you a good idea of what to look out for.