Composition (1): using the viewfinder

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Using the viewfinder

Composition

January, with its dreary colours and subjects, doesn’t exactly tempt you outdoors to take pictures. The days are short, the trees are bare, and life, for the most part, takes place indoors. It is, therefore, the perfect time of year to do some intensive work on some of the basic aspects of photography – composition, for example. Alongside basic technical knowledge, composition is certainly the key to success for anyone keen to take great pictures in 2014.

In this three-part series, we’ll be giving you some inspiration and tips on how you can improve the composition of your pictures. Part 1 deals with the photographer’s most important composition tool: the viewfinder.

Framing the picture

It’s worth taking a minute to consider what the function of the viewfinder is: the viewfinder frame forms a rectangle that precisely defines the content of the picture. The outlines of this rectangle decide what is included in the picture – and what is not.

Just the way you perceive the viewfinder can influence the composition of your pictures enormously.

Practise not just looking through the viewfinder, but rather looking at the image on the viewfinder. It is your virtual canvas upon which you as an artist paint your picture. Unlike a painter, however, who starts with a white canvas and adds various elements to it, you have to take the opposite approach: photographers must strive to reduce the multitude of elements in their field of vision. Ideally, only a small number of important elements will remain in the viewfinder, elements that truly contribute to the message that your picture is meant to convey.

You decide: does it stay or does it go? Change the height, the angle, and the distance from the object until the picture matches your conception exactly. Only then do you press the shutter release.

If you consciously use the frame provided by the viewfinder, you’ll photograph the world just as you see it. You will gradually be able to realise your ideas in your own personal photographic style.

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