Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds


Lesson Info

Guides - Center Composition

Now we're gonna start by talking about the guides of composition, and these are what I call the more easily digestible nuggets, right. These are probably the ones, if you've done a little bit of reading on composition, that you've heard about, like the rule of thirds, and the golden triangles, and the ratios, and things like that, and I'm gonna hopefully try demystify these a little bit and talk about what makes several of these more effective in certain situations, versus other situations. They can be a little bit confusing at first, especially because you'll find that a few of these can overlap. You may look at an image, and go oh, but I could apply this or this to it, and that's fine, because the similarities are really more about helping you create balance, and if they happen to overlap a little bit in your mind's eye, that's totally fine. Because this is all about helping you, not conforming you to any one structure. You're about creating balance, not creating a rule of thirds, ri...

ght, okay. So, again, more easily digestible nuggets. Keep these in your back pocket. These are good fundamentals to learn. So we start with Center Composition, and this is kind of the most basic one. This is the simple one. If you were to hand your camera to a random person, and you say, take a picture, their probably gonna put the object in the middle of the frame. This is the first one that we do innately. Right, puts the object right in the middle. It works best when using symmetry. That's how you create the balance, because you're focus should be on the middle, so your symmetrical elements should be around it. This can be quite boring visually if you're not careful, because this is the one that most people are gonna do innately, right, so how do you make something compelling? Well, people like Wes Anderson, master of this. If you ever take a look at the Wes Anderson movies, there's actually a really terrific video online if you search for it, it's called like Wes Anderson Centered, and it'll actually shows you several clips of Center Composition in his films, and it's very, very cool, it's a fun little video to watch, but he uses it so fantastically well, because it's all about creating a beautiful sense of symmetry and fluidity, and it really just appeals to us in this really great fundamental way. Right, Center Composition. I do say that it's kinda like roasting a chicken. It's very easy to do but it's hard to do well. So, you know, it is something that you're gonna wanna practice a little bit to have a stronger sensibility on. Right, and these are all very straight forward, and you can actually use this as it is, center, you know, singular object right in the middle and you can use that as a way to describe it. You can also break this down a little bit more to do a rule of thirds. Like if you were to put a person in the middle of the frame, yes it's a Center Composition, but if you were to align their features, you could create the rule of thirds, and that's fine too, that's where you start to get some of that overlap, but we're gonna talk about that in just a second. Now in addition to the Center Composition, there is another kind of Center Composition. Both of the images we looked at so far have been pretty flat. You can also use Center Composition to illustrate depth and that's using something called the One Point Perspective. Stanley Kubrick used to use this a lot in his films. Again, great video, go check out like Kubrick, One Point Perspective, it's an awesome video, and he just uses this over and over and over again, as a way to show depth and draw the eye inward, and he used lots of converging lines to do so, and it looks like this. The eye is drawn inward using the environment. It creates this great sense of scope and depth, and it generally works best when you're using a bit of a wider angle lens. You'll find that as we go through this, generally speaking, it doesn't actually matter if we're doing a landscape orientation or a portrait orientation, it all pretty much kind of works the same way. For example, here's One Point Perspective as well. Right, your eye is drawn inward, and hopefully the idea is before you actually even look at the image, your eye goes inward, but this just reinforces it. All right, just to kind of show you, hey this is what I wanted you to look at. Probably one of the best examples of this historically, is The Last Supper by da Vinci. An amazing example. We have a tremendously busy scene, yet we should be focusing on this person, and if you have no context for the image, you're drawn to the center person. You're like, well why is it? Well there's gestures, there's people pointing inward, but, all of the lines converge right to the middle, the lines of the building, and all of these different perspective lines help converge to that center person, telling us where we should be looking. Okay, and so that's Center and that's One Point Perspective. One is a little bit better for flat scenes, and the other ones a little bit better to show depth.

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.
  • 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.
  • Excellent information. I would have liked a little more examples in some of the composition rules, but I liked the content. Recommended for some one who is beggining or needs to reinforce composition