A cinematographer expresses his or her vision, and/or that of the director, through the art of composition — the selection and arrangement of elements. Cinema was essentially described as a written movement called the phi-phenomenon, but as filmmakers furthered into the art form, films became less focused on capturing moments before them and creating moments by using composition to tell stories visually.

Composition is a way of guiding the viewer’s eye towards the most important elements of your work, sometimes – in a very specific order. A good composition can help make a masterpiece even out of the dullest objects and subjects in the plainest of environments. On the other hand, a bad composition can ruin a photograph completely, despite how interesting the subject may be. A poorly judged composition is also not something you can usually fix in post-processing, unlike simple and common exposure or white balance errors. Cropping can sometimes save an image, but only when tighter framing and removal of certain portions of the image is the correct solution. That is why giving your choice of composition plenty of thought before capturing an image is a step of utmost importance.

The Rule of Thirds is perhaps the most well-known ‘rule’ of photographic composition. The rule of thirds is all about creating the right aesthetic trade-offs. It often creates a sense of balance —without making the image appears too static — and a sense of complexity without making the image look too busy. What’s usually most important is that your main subject or region isn’t always in the direct middle of the photograph. For subjects, this usually means photographing them to either side of the photo. This can make landscape compositions much more dynamic, and give subjects a sense of direction. The intersections of the lines are points of interest, where important objects are often placed. These points of interest are comfortable to the eye, thus the middle portion of the frame are kept “empty” or clear.


Another important composition is “Lead Room”. Lead Room is a foundation composition technique that is frequently employed in the visual arts such as cinematography, painting, and of course photography. In essence the ‘rule’ of lead room is that when framing a subject, well composed shots will include ‘white space’ in the direction that a subject is facing, or in the case of moving objects, in front of the direction that an object is moving. The effects of lead room can be even more pronounced when the subject of a photograph is in motion.

Limits of Control - Eye Room

The Lone Man is closer to the left of the screen and is walking left with some lead and eye room as he continues to move with balance. The still shows that the Lone Man is moving left and looking left heading to an unknown destination with a good amount of lead and eye room and he is walking through the streets looking at the walls defaced and probably seeing other things about the location of where he is and his surroundings.




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