What separates professional photographers from your average Instagram user is composition. Photographers use a variety of composition techniques to pose their subjects in interesting and dynamic positions. These techniques should be used as if ingredients in a culinary dish rather than as rules. How you pose your subjects depends wholly on your own creativity and goal for the photograph.
Getting Your Subject to Relax
If your subject is uncomfortable in front of the camera then provide directions. Giving direction fosters confidence and creates better photographs. You want your subjects as comfortable as possible during the session so you can get the best out of them. Avoid shooting your subject's shoulders square on. Because shoulders are the widest part of the body, they often create an unflattering image your client won't want to pay for. Instead angle the shoulders slightly. Watch for stiff joints. Photographers suggest that if it bends then bend it. Have your subject focus her weight on her back leg. This aids in relaxation.
The Rule of Thirds
An image is most aesthetically pleasing when divided among invisible lines. The rule of thirds divides an image vertically and horizontally to create a sense of dynamism in your subject. This doesn't mean perfectly aligning your subject along these lines, only roughly so. The main lesson to take to heart is to avoid centering your subject, unless you have a technical or artistic reason for doing so. Photographing subjects off-center creates a sense of direction and provides a more dynamic look.
Posing a subject off-center may also leave a glaring emptiness in the photo. This emptiness is caused by an uneven distribution of visual weight, pulling the viewer's eye too strongly in one direction. To avoid this, you need to balance the weight of your subject with another object of lesser importance. Balance ensures that no one image entirely draws the eye, and rather, allows the eye free range over the image. Every composition element must be counter-balanced to avoid an off-balanced photo.
Symmetry and Patterns
Symmetry and patterns are aesthetically pleasing and excellent techniques for composition. Especially useful when photographing multiple people or in an environment that lends itself to symmetry and patterns. Symmetry soothes both the eye and mind by creating a visual rhythm and "pulse" for the eye to follow. To avoid falling into conventionality, symmetry and patterns can can be subverted in creative ways. An object breaking the symmetry of a photo, for instance, creates tension and provides a focal point.
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- Digital Photography School: Five Elements of Composition in Photography
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