Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds

Lesson 1/13 - Class Introduction: What are you going to learn?


Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds


Lesson Info

Class Introduction: What are you going to learn?

Today we're gonna be talking about composition, which is one of my favorite things to talk about. We're gonna do a bit of a deep dive into all kinds of different compositional guides, rules, visual theories, and a whole lot of other things that we can really explore as visual communicators. So without further ado, we're just gonna go ahead and dig right into it, because we do have a whole lot of stuff to cover today. So we're gonna start with the concepts, just to give you a little bit of a brief overview about the material that we're gonna be looking at today. We're gonna be talking about, very quickly frame, tones, lines and depth. We're gonna talk about center composition, the one point perspective, the golden rules of photography composition. The rule of thirds, the golden triangles, the golden ratio, rectangles, spiral. We're gonna talk about a lot of different kinds of composition found in painting things like the Baroque and the sinister diagonals, the triangles, L-shapes, S or ...

Z curves, frames within a frame, the Gestalt Principles, figure/ground, chiaroscuro, negative space, proximity grouping, the rule of odds, symmetry, balance, similarity, continuity and closure. There is a lot to talk about today. And it is, like I say, one of my favorite things to talk about. So we're very, very, very excited. Now the first thing we have to do is address this, what is composition. Composition is the purposeful selection and arrangement of what is in your frame. These things can be shapes, lines, tones, colors. And you have been doing this the entire time you've been photographing. Any time you look through the camera, you tilt, you look around, you change what you're looking at, you are composing. And today, we're gonna be talking about refining those sensibilities to improve our abilities as visual communicators. Composition is quite simply visual simplification and organization. And again, this is all in pursuit of more clearly and effectively communicating your idea to the viewer. The viewer, fundamentally, doesn't really know what to look at, so it's our job to make not only a more pleasing image, but one that is fundamentally easier for the viewer to understand. There is a practical part of composition, and there is a functional part of composition. And we need to be thinking about this when we are putting our images together visually. But we have to consider our purpose. This should be the main thing you think about when it comes to putting your images together, what am I trying to achieve, what am I trying to communicate. And composition, like every other element within your technique, helps to further that purpose. Now for us, what we think about when we think about composition, is including the important elements, and disregarding the unimportant elements. If it should be in the frame, put it in the frame; if it shouldn't be in the frame, don't have it in the frame. That's really quite simply what we're trying to do, but we have to really hone that skill. And this is because the human eye sees selectively. We don't compose. We kind of prioritize, based on what is interesting to us. But the camera sees unselectively, and so we have to spell out to the viewer what we find interesting and what we want them to find interesting. People like to get into this argument. Is composition all BS? Is it a waste? Why is it that I can take an image that I shot intuitively and put this guide over the top of it and voila, it's composition. Composition doesn't mean anything if I didn't plan to do it. And this is kind of the argument that people on the Internet like to go back and forth about. But it's not BS. There are different approaches to using composition. You can think about composition beforehand as you're arranging the image in a very purposeful way. You can also do it instinctively, or innately. Some people are better at this than others, also the more you study composition, the better you're going to be at it, even if you're not thinking about it consciously. And lastly, we can use composition as a way to explain why an image feels balanced. Because if something is done innately, or intuitively, maybe we can look at it and go oh, no, it is balanced, and here's why it's balanced, because the eye moves through the image these ways. And so there are different ways in which we can utilize composition, talk about composition and explain it. And so we have to really consider what that means to us and how we're gonna use it, because there is this vague concept of balance that we are trying to achieve. And it can be achieved either through preemptive planing or conscious effort or, you know, subconscious ability, and neither is right or wrong. It's all about what works for you personally. And so we're gonna do, as we go through this class today, is we're gonna start with the guides. And these are the things you may already be aware of, things like the rule of thirds, which we are going to be moving beyond, and then we're gonna move on to kind of some of the big picture concepts, and you're gonna see that the guides are, they're rooted in these same big ideas, but the guides are just these more digestible and easier to understand and apply nuggets that you can kind of take out and use when it is best suited to you, so you can ultimately decide what works best for you.

Class Description

You know the basics of composition – now take it to the next level. Good composition is more than following a strict set of rules and guidelines. In fact, those very things can stifle your creativity and make your work fade into the pack of other photographers. In this class, Chris Knight shows you that there is more to composition than a few lines – it’s about creating balance in an image. He’ll introduce the Gestalt Principle and encourage you to look beyond the rule of thirds and utilize contrast, leading lines and more for interesting and dynamic images.



I have to say, perhaps if you are an academic or a college trained photographer/artist/painter etc., this may be old hat to you. However, if you are like me and have never been exposed to definitions and descriptions of composition, this was a shock-and-awe inspiring reveal of these artistic concepts. I can guarantee I will watch these over and over again while I try to absorb even a little of this material, but Creative Live could make an all day class of this guy explaining this material. material he quite obviously loves and uses and his passion for the subject matter is very obvious. This class is making me consider a trip back to the campus to get more information on this subject. Quick, contract Chris Knight to develop a whole class before I end up in college!!! Highly recommend this class.

Matthew De Moraes

Really useful tips and tricks to improve your understanding of composition and why you like the images you like - which you can then use to further your own ability to take great images in camera.

a Creativelive Student

What a FANTASTIC presentation! I loved it. Best instruction I have ever seen/read as a graphic designer for 33 years. I majored in art and graphic communications in college before becoming a designer. Well done Chris. Definitely buying the class.