Composition-Beyond the Rule of Thirds


Lesson Info

The Concept of Closure

And that brings us to closure, which is the last of the Gestalt principles. And this actually builds on continuity and the leading lines. And it basically says that the human brain wants to follow lines. And it will try to fill in the blanks if something is not there. So if there is not enough information, or the figure is not entirely in frame and the brain finds it interesting, it will try to fill in the details. Also known as leavin' a little to the imagination. It's also closely related to similarity. And so, like I said, all about just leading your eye where you want it to go. It's a picture of a deer. How do we know it's a picture of a deer? Well, we see the eye and we see the ear, and we fill in the rest. It's actually believed that this was developed because of evolution, being able to sense danger by percieving predators from only small, recognizable features. Seeing like a wolf's ear, wolf's eyes, in the darkness. And so the people that would live would be able to know that t...

hat's what that was And so that's how that trait came about. Now the Gestalt principles are described using the phrase "the whole is other than the sum of its parts." So, using multiple principles in an image will ultimately help you create a more dynamic sense of space. It's okay to use one of these, but if you're able to pull off several of them in an image, it is gonna make it a little bit more successful and dynamic. So, we step back. We look at composition, and we have to go back to this. Eliminate the nonessential. Successful images have no dead space and no inactive parts. Everything needs to serve the purpose. What are you trying to communicate, what in your frame helps you communicate that idea. Does it or doesn't it? It's a binary, a zero or a one. Right? So, we can use a good foundation. We can start with those thirds, those triangles. They're all good places to start. But then you build on those foundations with really good visual theory. 'Kay? And then, you really have to remember that it's all meaningless without an interesting photograph. This is the technique. Technique helps further your idea. It only gets us part of the way there, and just because someone creates a compositionally perfect photo doesn't necessarily mean that the photo is interesting. But by using the techniques in the photos, all of this will hopefully help you create better balance in yours. Composition needs to serve the purpose of the photo. It can be quiet, or it can be dynamic, or it can be aggressive, but all of this is about knowing how to use the tools of communication to more successfully communicate through the visual language of photography. Hey, I was wondering at what point with the client, do you start talking about where they're gonna put logos and copy, and where they're gonna decide to crop it based on how they're gonna use your image, 'cause that obviously affects the Sure, absolutely, yeah. So, generally I have that conversation pretty early on, or at least before I start shooting. But usually I like to say, "Where is this gonna be?" 'Cause that's also in the business perspective part of usage and everything else. I gotta know, do I need to shoot mostly landscapes, do I need to shoot landscape and portrait, do I need both, or one or the other? Is it gonna be very long and narrow, or is it gonna be very square? And so knowing that before actually even coming into it means I kinda have to decide the composition generally ahead of time. At least the frame. I'm deciding the frame ahead of time. And that will, you don't wanna waste your time doing stuff that's never gonna get used so, yeah, early on. Yeah? Thank you. Hi. I was interested to know, with all of that arsenal of composition techniques and ways to look at it, could you tell us about a time when you had difficulty, I guess deciding where you were gonna go with a composition? Sure, sure. So, before I had a really good handle on it, it was really the hardest. 'cause I was kinda flyin' blind a little bit. You would do it intuitively, and you would totally get stuff that worked, I mean, we all have sensibilities we like, and things that we gear toward. But it wasn't until I kinda buckled down, and I was like, "All right, I'm really gonna try to learn about this," before I really felt like I had a better hold on it. But, that's also not to say that I still don't struggle with it all the time, especially when you're workin' in studio, a lot of times you're like, "Well, how do I make this feel a little bit more impressive than 'here's someone in front of a background'?" And so I did one six months ago where I brought in old lights into the composition. I showed it in the beginning of the slide. And I kinda tried to plan it out preemptively how it was gonna work in the frame. And so I still had to bring it in, and test it, and change, and move, and it just, the more you try to up the ante for yourself, like it still, it happened six months ago. It's the thing I shot for Pro Photo, and it was just, yeah, I'm trying to move around and try to make it work, and you still have to work through it and work it out. So even if you have it in your head, it's not necessarily always gonna be there. And you just gotta keep workin' through it until you're happy with it. Great. And we have some questions from online, and a few of them are all about, can you apply these principles to kind of all sorts of types of frames, so say for example, medium format, the square frame, do they all apply in the same way? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the square frame is a little bit less friendly to some of them, like for example you can't really do a golden ratio out of a square frame because the whole point is you dissect a square from it, so you don't really get it there. But it's all about guides, so it's not about applying a specific regimented guide to the exact constraints of the image, as long as it sort of more or less follows the idea, you're movin' in the right direction. All right, we've got one more from Marcia online. So you were talkin' about the golden spiral that is going from left to right, is that because we read from left to right, and if you're in a different culture, or can you flip it? Yeah, you can absolutely flip it. It can go up, down, left, right, mirror one way versus the other. It makes no difference. Where can everybody follow you online and make sure that they are with ya? Oh sure, yeah, how about right here?, I'm also on Instagram, @chrisknightphoto, and the book, 'The Dramatic Portrait,' is out as well, it's available on Amazon and Rocky Nook. And please go check those out.

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