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Hidden Compositional Elements!

What made me pull up the camera and zoom into this mountain? Mainly, it was because when looking through the viewfinder, “it felt right”. Now, define “right” – why did it feel “right”? It doesn’t have dramatic powerful lighting, it was taken at noon – not the magic hour, it doesn’t have that big grizzly bear in the red bikini… I didn’t really think about it when I took the photo, but it contains several compositional elements that made me come back to this image, rank it highly, finish and share it.

So – the why: In looking at this in Lightroom and cycling through the different Crop Overlay (O) screens in Develop, I see that it includes the Rule of Thirds, it has diagonals, and is balanced. This is a great tool in Lightroom and easy to forget.

I also looked at this more closely and see that it includes some of my favorite elements: “Zs” and Triangles. Again, I didn't necessarily look at these elements when I composed it in the camera - they were there, it felt right, and they worked.

I have a lot of fun talking about composition in workshops, and tell folks to forget that darn saying “Break the Rules”! Each and every compelling image – no matter the medium – is going to contain one or more strong compositional elements. It’s the way our eyes work, and our mind sees. So forget about “breaking the rules”, think instead of looking for the compositional elements that made you want to stop the car, pull up the camera and press that shutter!

Dan Holmes - longtime CIPPA member.

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