International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 10 – “Composition”

PART 10 – On the subject of Composition – Geometry, Symmetry and Perfect Proportion…

3. Composition

So, what are the visual elements that make a great composition? My contention is that our pre conditioning as human beings makes us deeply receptive to all of the elements of geometry that surround us in our daily lives. It is how we bring together elements within a photographic image that makes it either pleasing or displeasing. The phrase, “What’s the point?” springs to mind. For if the compositional elements fail to draw the viewer to the critical viewpoint, or more familiarly, the point of the image, then it has in truth, failed.

To briefly examine the compositional elements and tools I will refer to a useful and ancient text. A point. The first mark an artist makes on his canvas? The point of view? The critical point of interest?. It is undoubtedly the beginning and the end of an image, the ‘whole point’ if you like. In progression, once the artist has made his first mark this often extends into a line.

Lines are like railroad tracks or Motorways. They take you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ where you know point ‘B’ exists even if you cannot see it!. This is manifested in many ways in an image as a ‘Vanishing Point’ or simply a line that leads us directly to where we as artists, wish the viewer to arrive at the critical point. A careful use of ‘Leading Lines’ within an image makes for a very powerful composition indeed.

Lines when joined together in a two dimensional form become surfaces or ‘superficie’ and surfaces in turn, when joined together in a geometric manner become solids perceptually when directional light is applied thereby resulting in a graphic two dimensional form emerging into a three dimensional vision. Therefore, directional light combined with strong lines, surfaces and points have become the essential elements of any composition. That is the beauty of Geometry, Symmetry and Perfect Proportion. Nothing new. Nothing uniquely photographic. Just the knowledge of the “Ancients” continuing to play its part in the 21st Century.


One comment on “International Judging and Scoring Systems in Photography – Part 10 – “Composition”

  1. Martin, one of the interesting things to study is neoclassical architecture. It still determines the proportion and position of the panels on a door, for example. The rules of eye/height/distance which gave us this also give us the standard approach to picture framing – and at least for me, the basics of magazine page layout (which are completely ignored today, resulting in very confusing and unbalanced design). In Leamington Spa you have plenty of the real thing – doorways proportional to ceiling height, chair rails and skirting at the correct levels and panels etc. I have always felt that Kevin Wilson’s photography over the years has been 100% grounded in neoclassical proportion.


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