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"Stretch out with your feelings" Part II

So, for this part, we will dive into what I’ve been learning and reflecting on composition, as said in the previous post, we will look at it from the minimal constructive element of film and open up from there, so as far as the film frame or the photograph is concerned we still talk about:


Consider the photographic frame. since we have a stereoscopic vision, our way of appreciating our surroundings depends on a larger horizontal weight, then again, culturally that is being challenged as the “vertical frame” though always existent, is now becoming an integral part of the audiovisual realm.

When talking about spatial composition, we should relate it mainly with the photographed elements arrangement in a two dimensional frame, in the hopes of letting the view travel across the frame, understanding the subtle elements of weight, contrast, narrative value, harmony, or disharmony, etc. As long as the eye travels and is being fed information, we’re on the right path.

We could take this frame and divide the frame into the well-known equal thirds, or as some filmmakers state, more of a division according to the “Golden Radio”, not equal thirds but rather an harmonious arrangement of divisive lines.

I believe the words “symmetry”, “harmony”, “balance”, and “unbalance” are good guidelines but can, at times, encase us into a black and white approach to compositions, my idea around this is to think to myself: Is this good? Is this bad? Maybe. What’s the story about?

So, let’s start with a simple set of visual guidelines that I was taught during a photography workshop, I have taken my own interpretations but here it goes. And in no way I intend to state these as the main rules for anything, just my approach.

As far as visual elements and their arrangement in frame, we’ll think about:

  • Eye-space

  • Rhythm

  • Perspective

  • Focus

  • Horizon

  • Contrast

Let’s dig in for a second:

Eye-space: I was told, in the case of this rule: to keep the fame open in accordance to where the”gaze” is aimed in the frame, that is to say, if I had a horizontal portrait of a face, and said face had its eyes aimed at the left of frame, then my frame would open up space in that direction, to do so inversely would “unbalance” the frame. Question is, is it wrong to? Clearly not. But to do so requires an understanding of its implications.

Rhythm: Plainly put, this rule encourages the photographer to arrange elements that share a similarity in apparent shape, lines or proportion. From many faces, to similar objects, to the abstraction of apparent projected lines. In essence, repetition.

Perspective: Interesting clue for this one, if we consider classical painting and its drive to replicate reality, specifically the Renaissance, the pivotal element in question would be the vanishing point. In essence, looking for those apparent lines and proportional shapes that emphasize the feeling of depth and three dimensionality in the frame. Now, this would be easier to approach with an optical aid from wide angle lenses, but beyond that, it’s more about element arrangement on this one.

Focus: beyond the idea of depth of field or selective focus, as a compositional rule we might understand it as a way to use these optical elements to establish the subject’s relationship with its surroundings or a specific element in frame. Keep in mind that as we are talking about visual narrative, this rule is precisely dependent on the narrative structure and its development.

Horizon: Most of us are used to seeing balance in horizontal lines, or an apparent horizontal feel, and also balance between earth and sky. For image framing, this rule recommends to hold a horizon line steady, and arranged to either a lower or upper third of frame, delineating earth and sky steadily, again, on this same rule we must know that going against it, with dutch angles or symmetrical divisions are part of a justified approach. Everything goes, just as long as we know where we’re headed.

Contrast: As long as we understand the concept of visual contrast, as in the different level of differentiation between two or more elements, this rule can have many different applications. If our arrangement in frame uses certain visual qualities of our subject in order to juxtapose it against another subject, a background, a texture. ett. From contrast in light, shadow, color, texture, and in the case of narrative, the symbolic or metaphorical standing of our subject on that place in scene and space.

These “rules” are merely but a set of guidelines to understand the elements around you, their apparent visual relationship and how we, as image makers, can arrange our frame in service of our vision and the story, Whether it be a candid photograph or a film frame.

It’s important to keep in mind that these guidelines work also if we consider our subjects(if any) in the frame as having a visual weights. Some people like to think as zones in the frame, I personally like to think with visual weights, not exactly relevant to size but more in terms of relationships, with either surrounding or other subject.

Next post we will expand on composition by analyzing the axis lines, weights, and spatial interpretation.

in the meantime, we sleep...

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