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Archive 2012 · rule of thirds?
  
 
hypotyposis
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p.1 #1 · rule of thirds?


How can I make this image better either through editing or if I were to retake it? When would I/when would I not use rule of thirds?

Thanks all!







Jul 30, 2012 at 09:58 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #2 · rule of thirds?


I think you are already at rule of thirds. Nice sharp capture of the flower.

What I see that bothers me a bit is the light blue OOF thing lining up with the bud that points to the lower left corner. The OOF red bloom at lower right is also a distraction because it goes out of the frame.

For this sort of image to work, you need good isolation of the flower. I am a bit spoiled in this regard because I used to do long lens birds where I could totally isolate the bird. Not as easy to do with shorter focal lengths.

When I grew roses, I took a lot of rose pictures. I would prune stuff I did not want and wait for perfection of bloom and light. But flowers were always harder to isolate than birds. I did do a few with my 500mm lens. In that case it was sometimes hard to get enough dof.



Jul 30, 2012 at 10:09 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #3 · rule of thirds?


I think Ben covered it well.
Pretty shot, btw. Nice leading lines and I like the placement of the subject at the upper right third
Scott

Edited on Jul 31, 2012 at 06:44 AM · View previous versions



Jul 31, 2012 at 12:32 AM
ben egbert
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p.1 #4 · rule of thirds?


I cloned out the red patch, darkened the blue area and applied lens blur to the background.





My play with this




Jul 31, 2012 at 12:41 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #5 · rule of thirds?


The cause and effect of putting a focal point on a "thirds" node is that it makes the view scan over the other 2/3 of the content before or after seeing it.

If they scan over the other 2/3 first they grasp the context of the story before finding the "punchline".

If they find the focal point on the node immediately they will not understand the context contained in the background until they wander off it. That's like delivering the punchline of a joke then trying to explain what it means.

When contrasting (with the background) focal point is centered in the frame the viewer will tend to go there and not wander off as quickly because there's no clear clue where to go next because the space is equal on right and left.

So don't think in terms of rules, think in terms of telling a story.

What is the focal point?

What background or foreground detail is needed to explain it?

-- If not do you really want the viewer to wander off the focal point?

-- If you do want context do you want viewer to see and understand the context before or after?

Part of process of composition is trying to guess where the viewer will enter the frame.

If they enter on the top left like reading text on page and the focal point is on the right they will scan over the context enroute to the focal point.

If the focal point is contrasting strongly, like the color in your shot, the viewer is likely to be pulled to it first regardless of where you put it in the frame. But that also means the next thing they will do is wander off of it!

Where do you want them to go next? When they get there what, if anything is the next thing that will catch their eye and pull them in that direction? Will they every go back to the main focal point of the photo before getting bored and disengage?

Beyond putting an interesting focal point in a photo if you allow the viewer to wander off of it then you better plan a "connect the dots" path of secondary focal points that lead back to it, ideally in a circle rather than a less interesting out and back linear path.

If you don't want the viewer to wander off the focal point (e.g., face in a portrait) make it contrast so strongly nothing else tempts the eye off it, or crop tight so there is literally nowhere else to go.

In your shot the OOF bud in the background distracts attention off the red flower that is seen first. The fact you put the red flower in the upper right corner gives the viewer no option to go futher right or up so they will go to the OOF bud that is lower and to the left. Then where? Probably back for a second look at the flower.

If instead you cropped in tight on the single flower or cloned out the other stems then the viewer would find it and not be tempeted to wander off it. it would perhaps have more impact, but wouldn't tell the same story.

Pulling the the viewer off the flower to see the bud tells a story of what the flower looks like before it blooms the close-up of just the flower would lack.

First find the story in your imagination then identify what tells that story, the decide the order you hope the viewer see then and puts the pieces of the story together. By then it should be obvious where to put the focal point in the frame



Jul 31, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Camperjim
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p.1 #6 · rule of thirds?


The term, rule of thirds, is like fingernails on a blackboard to me. It is very unfortunate that John Smith coined this phase in 1797. I can't tell you how many times I have heard some smug comment about just be yourself and break the rules. The "rule" would be better off called a prinicple or guideline. The rule of thirds is just one aspect of the field of composition and there are many, many other aspects. I find the study of composition to be extremely valuable and it gives the photographer a toolbox to create compelling images. Or as stated above it helps the photographer to tell a story.

I don't think we can post links to other internet sites, but just google photography composition articles. You will find a very interesting collection on a single web page. Some of the articles are overly simplistic, but I have found some other them to be very good. I would recommend the article by Johannes Vloothuis as a starting point.



Jul 31, 2012 at 02:07 AM
hypotyposis
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p.1 #7 · rule of thirds?


Thank you all so much for the suggestions, information, and input in general! I will definitely do more research to learn about composition and using focal points and using this thirds idea more as a guideline rather than something definite and set in stone.


Jul 31, 2012 at 04:57 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #8 · rule of thirds?


You could add some pop by going into Lab space mode and making curves a and b adjustments, then revert to RGB and add an asymmetric vignette and reduce the vibrance to undo some of the Lab curves gain:





Tweaked







Lab mode curves adjustments







RGB mode vignette and vibrance reduction




Jul 31, 2012 at 06:29 AM
 

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oxman
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p.1 #9 · rule of thirds?


hypotyposis wrote:
How can I make this image better either through editing or if I were to retake it? When would I/when would I not use rule of thirds?

Thanks all!


If reshoot -- come in closer and back light.



Jul 31, 2012 at 08:07 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · rule of thirds?


In movies a new scene usually starts with a wide shot to establish the scene for the viwer - context for want is seen next. The actor, if in the shot at all is more of a framing element not a focal point.

Next a medium shot will show the actor in the space more or less equally so the viewer understands how the two relate to each other. Often in film the camera will shift focus between foreground and background.

The camera continues to crop tighter to show the action. Psychologically the tighter crop has the effect of pulling the viewer closer to the action, which creates a stronger emotional reaction than the same action seen in a wide shot.

All those views are those of an external observer. Another view called a "cutaway" changes the point of view (POV) from external to what the actor in the scene is seeing with their eyes.

The fact a movie can combine all those different POVs together in a seamless sequence makes it much easier to tell a complex, textured story that it is in a still photo. The solution to that problem? Don't always try to tell the story in a single photo!

Photojouralists use a similar approach of wide / medium / close-up. Back 40 years ago in college when I started shooting I wanted to be a PJ and take photos like I saw as a kid in LIFE and National Geographic. One of the first photo books I bought was on photo-journalism and it stressed finding the story and buiding it with those different POVs. Cinemography texts reforced that idea.

Following the advice in the PJ book to shoot wide for context and close-up for impact during my freshman year in college I bought and carried a pair of Nikon F bodies and equipped them with 35mm and 85mm lenses, with a 1° spot meter and LunaPro incident meter for exposure control. The PJ book had suggested those vs. the "normal" 50mm lens for a FF 35mm because "normal" is what the eyes see most of the time and "normal" in photos tends to be boring compared to a wide shot that forces the viewer to explore to find the focal point, or a close-up that "jams" it in their face and gives gives them nothing else to wander off to in the photo.

Using the two fixed FL lenses reinforced the idea of telling a story starting with a wide context shot then building it by moving closer, first with my feet and the 35mm to create the medium shots, then switching to 85mm for close-up of the faces, hands and action, including from the "over the shoulder - eyes of the actor" cut-away POV.

The most difficult of the four views to pull off well with a still photo is the "medium" shot which contains both the focal point and the context which explains it. The mistake beginners tend to make is putting too much context in their photos to the point it distracts attention off the focal point vs. framing the focal point in a way that guides the viewer towards it.

For example in a portrait arms are leading lines and the front of the face is the focal point you want the viewer to dwell on. But what happens when the viewer looks at the photo? By instinct from meeting strangers in person they seek out the face first. Then when tired of the face they look for a clue where to go next and follow the shoulders to a arm and the arm down to the hand away from the focal point!.

Another example is a person sitting on a fence with 3ft of fence in front of them and 40 ft behind them stretching to the horizon. What happens? The viewer will find the person, then tiring of looking at that follow the leading line of the fence — the clue where to go next the photographer put in the composition — off into the background away from the main focal point.

One of the more effective ways to provide context in a medium shot without it creating distractions which pull attention away from the focal point is to "unify" them with parallax, stacking one behind the other by changing the POV of the camera:







When two eye catching objects are separated they create a ping-pong eye movement because the brain can't focus on both at the same time. By changing the POV of the camera you can sometimes have the viewer see one directly behind the other. Then by controlling DOF with aperture you an either keep both in focus to convey equal importance, or render one slightly OOF so the viewer understands one is more important than the other.

The difference in terms of overall composition in the frame is that when the centers of interest are unified the entire story can be told in the center in of the frame so you don't need to guide the viewer all over it to tell the story. The space around the action just needs to be sufficient for balance so the it doesn't feel like it's been "crammed in a box" by the rectangular or square crop of the frame. Leading lines, trees, etc. on the edges should act as framing elements which encourage the viewer to move in from the edges of the frame to find the focal point. Look for and eliminate things on the edges which catch the eye and pull it out away from the core action in the center.

How does the rule of thirds fit into that process? By way of analogy think of the thirds nodes like the four pockets on pair of pants and the main focal point as your wallet.

First identify the focal point you want the viewer to dwell on then literally (if you have a zoom lens) or mentally or with your fingers as a frame crop in tight on it. That's your close-up with the maximum emotional impact. Take it and then widen the crop to include more context.

As you increase the "negative" space around the focal point pay attention to the edges of the frame to spot things that enter and start to distract. If you see something catch your eye in the viewfinder it's a safe bet it will also distract the viewer off the focal point when looking at the photo. You can eliminate the distraction by cropping it out, or make a mental note to burn it in or clone it out when editing the shot.

As the crop gets wider try putting your focal point in each of the four "pockets" (ROT nodes) and see how it feels there.

We all are artists in the sense we know what we like when we see it. But what beginners don't do enough is try different options and compare them. Getting in the habit of cropping tight on the focal point, then expanding the frame to add context to the focal point, and trying it out on each of the four thirds nodes forces you to look at different options. Give your brain four choices if where to put the focal point and you'll usually wind up with a better composed shot than if you only try one option.

Often the focal point will not "feel" right when placed on one of the third nodes. That doesn't "break" the rule is just means that the story is better told if the viewer isn't wandering left and right in the frame. But even when the focal point is centered horizontally the balance and feel of the photo is better when the focal point is near the upper 1/3 or lower 1/3 of the frame vs. cutting the photo exactly in half.

Horizons in scenics are a good example. Showing more foreground and less sky tells the viewer the foreground is more important. If the shot is 2/3 sky it sends the opposite message. Choose between them based on what is more interesting, the foreground detail / action or interesting clouds, a rainbow or a glorious sunset.

One of the reasons the ROT works so well most of the time is that by putting the focal point on or near one of the four nodes it automatically creates a buffer of negative space around it that is big enough that the focal point doesn't seem cramped in the corner where it is located but not so big the viewer will wander past it into that corner.

Usually, but not always, when using the ROT to place the focal point off center you'd want to anticipate the direction the viewer will scan the photo. That creates the dynamic I mentioned earlier of seeing context before focal point then getting stopped there because there is nowhere else to go they haven't seen already.

The "inside-out" cropping method of starting tight and expanding outward makes it easier to create that dynamic because you can more easily see when other content is pulling the eye away vs leading it to the focal point.

Often when using that method myself and seeing a distraction enter the frame I solve the problem by moving the camera to either get the distraction out of the shot or unify it with the focal point.

In your shot the focal point is the flower. The OOF buds add interest and context but also pull the eye away form the focal point. The solution? Move the camera and try to find angle where the buds that give the focal point context are seen directly behind the flower:







It the same content, but the story is "tighter" because the eye isn't pulled off the focal point to see the context. Can you always do that when shooting? No. But those are the things to keep in mind when framing the shot.

I moved the two buds in Photoshop on separate layers and blended them in with masks? Cheating? That's one way to look at it. Another is "artistic license". If you were capturing the scene with a brush and canvas you could edit the scene in the same way to make the composition better. Photoshop just digitizes the brush




Jul 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #11 · rule of thirds?


WELCOME TO FM !!!
FM ROCKS !!!

Camperjim wrote:
The term, rule of thirds, is like fingernails on a blackboard to me. It is very unfortunate that John Smith coined this phase in 1797. I can't tell you how many times I have heard some smug comment about just be yourself and break the rules. The "rule" would be better off called a prinicple or guideline. The rule of thirds is just one aspect of the field of composition and there are many, many other aspects. I find the study of composition to be extremely valuable and it gives the photographer a toolbox to create compelling images. Or as
...Show more

+1 @ rules = tools

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1098699/8

Starting on page 9 (link above) and running for about three pages you'll see a dialogue among FM'ers (self included) regarding "rule of thirds" and "rules" in general. As you read, you'll notice it is pretty well divided into two camps of useful vs. useless ... but that's the thing about a tool ... it is up to the craftsman to determine which tool he wants to use. Personally, I can't draw a stick man without a ruler, while others would never consider using a straight-edge as something a "true artist" would use.

That being said ... if it works for you to use a rule (I find them useful more for conceptual comprehension than exacting application) .... use it. If it guides, directs or liberates you, those are usually good things. If you find rules hindering or restricting you, maybe not so good.

One thing about composition with regard to say ROT (rule of thirds) is that it isn't a stand alone element. The ROT is largely relative to "placement" within the scene, but the other elements of tonal value, color, scale, perspective, leading lines, etc. are factors to effective composition and the "placement" (ROT) is but one piece of the puzzle.

That being said, people will often times OVEREMPHASIZE rule of thirds, etc. ... to the detriment of the other aspects of the composition. In this regard FORCING a tool can be a hazard, not unlike trying to use a screwdriver to do the job of a chisel. You can have a scene with great leading lines to a central subject ... and if you moved it to fit the ROT, you could ruin your leading lines (particularly implied ones). Personally, I find leading lines more powerful & dynamic than ROT placement. ROT becomes most useful (imo) in the absence of strong symmetry, scale, perspective, leading lines etc.

To me, ROT is a bit like "divebomb charlie" (answer "C" on multiple choice when you don't know the answer) in that when you don't have an otherwise clear direction on where/how to take your compositional placement. It can be a "safe place" to go, that is often one of the first things learned @ how to "decentralize" a subject. But as you learn more about the other elements of composition and how people "see" and how to "draw the eye" in your imagery ... you'll find ROT less important to you (still a valuable tool) as you have filled your toolbox with additional tools of your choosing.

Second to ROT (imo) is selective focus. These are probably the first two powerful tools that people learn to use (good stuff). Other tools are much more subtle and cohesively refined in their usage, so it can take a while before people are willing to relinquish their powerful friends of ROT, selective focus, etc. We all have our favorite tools, and when we pick up a new one it becomes our favorite to use until we get decent control of it ... then on to find a new one to add to the arsenal of tools in our toolbox as well build a collection of them to have at our disposal. ROT is but one ... and it is a classic one that will always have value ... but it is far from the only one.

There are a variety of ways you can go with any image, depending upon your goals for the image. One isn't necessarily "better" than another although some might better achieve a desired goal.

As always S&P to taste.

Again ...

WELCOME TO FM !!!
FM ROCKS !!!








Jul 31, 2012 at 12:24 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #12 · rule of thirds?


RustyBug wrote:
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1098699/8

Starting on page 9 (link above) and running for about three pages you'll see a dialogue among FM'ers (self included) regarding "rule of thirds" and "rules" in general.

Kent, thanks for the link. I encourage everone to start at the first page of the thread and look at the wonderful photography there and on the following pages. Actually, the off topic "rules" debate is the least interesting item on the thread. It went down a rabbit trail instead of posting nice images.

My takeaway from that discussion is that it is not so much about conventions of composition ("rules") is it is about the application thereof. Matken doesn't ignore the rules, if you look at his work (much of which I really like), you will see an effective application of compositional methods. I'd venture to say that what he means about not following rules is that he doesn't conciously think about them when taking a photograph.

Many of his photographs have an extra "something" that makes them stand out. I'm reminded of listening to two violinists. I have recordings of the same piece of music played by different musicians who are equal in technical proficiency. While both performances are enjoyable, one has that something extra that's hard to put into words that makes it better. The same thing applies to photographs. I see photos which follow the rules of composition, yet just aren't that interesting. You can almost see the photographer having to think through the rules.



Jul 31, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #13 · rule of thirds?


Rusty, thanks for posting the link to that discussion. Right now I have a slow internet connection so I need to come back at a better time. I did read a comment something like "the day I need to follow the rules is the day I give up photography." That exactly typifies why I hate the term rule of thirds.

I know I often shoot by feel, but I also often really study a scene and look at the leading lines and shapes and compositional elements. When I do this I usually end up with better results.

This reminds me of a similar discussion about creativity. Some people see creativity as some sort of magical innate characteristic. End of discussion. I see creativity as something that can be enhanced by a number of techniques. One simple technique is to always focus on the question: how can I do this differently? When that fails, there are other techniques including the more logical approach called Scamper. In any case, whether composition or creativity or technical skill it seems to be that improvement in our photography skills comes from practice, training, and effort and sometimes that effort might involve applying a little brain power to understanding what we are doing.



Jul 31, 2012 at 06:04 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #14 · rule of thirds?


Techincal competence and creativity are like two wheels on opposite sides of the the same cart. When one out paces the other the cart moves in a circle. When both are moving at the same speed there is maximum forward progress.

I was, briefly, an art major in college. Every class I took was an effort to teach me techique not creativity. Creativity is having an idea, technique is being able to express it in a way the audience can relate to.

A camera isn't like a paint brush on canvas where every stroke reflects the artist's intent. With the camera it captures what you point it at. How well it captures and reproduces what you point it at? That's a factor of the photographer's technical competence and something which can be objectively measured —exposure, color balance, tonal range—and compared to what is normally seen by eye, i.e. what looks "normal".

The creative part is deciding what to point it at, directing the action that is performed in front of it, or intentionally rendering the scene in a way different than normally seen by eye.

Normal is booring because we see it all the time. So anything different tends to have artistic merit. But before long the fresh new thing becomes the new normal and just as boring, and the next new thing becomes art.

A few years ago you seldom saw a senior photo where the horizon wasn't tilted 45°, the result I suspect of the photographers not having a clue how to create a dynamic looking pose. Thankfully it was a short lived "artistic" trend — my neck was getting sore looking at them.




Jul 31, 2012 at 08:33 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #15 · rule of thirds?


The "rules" are useful when learning to compose images. They ought to help develop an eye for good composition. However, once you understand the "rules" you are in a position to know when they don't apply or when other visual considerations supersede them. Consider Scott's Botanical Gardens image, for example.


Jul 31, 2012 at 10:53 PM
hypotyposis
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p.1 #16 · rule of thirds?


thanks, all!


Aug 13, 2012 at 07:41 PM





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