John Freeman’s Composition Masterclass: Page 2

Rule of Thirds

There’s a rule that artists have followed since the ancient Greeks, known as the ‘Golden Section’. It states that important compositional elements should be placed at the intersection of imaginary lines drawn vertically and horizontally a third of the way in from each side of the picture, like a noughts and crosses grid. Most of the images on this spread use this rule to a greater or lesser degree, though naturally there are many fine photographs that completely reject this rule. If you don’t have a visible grid you can always imagine one when you’re composing.

Off Centre

By placing this horse and cart on the right-hand side of the frame gives balance to this shot of a deserted beach in Tunisia. In addition, the strong mid-afternoon sun creates excellent shadow detail, and the blue of the sea and the sky complement one another.

Camera Orientation

The way you hold your camera has an effect on the overall composition of your photographs. These two images of the Millennium Dome (above), taken one after the other, show just how different a shot you get by turning the camera 90°.

Leading Lines

I had been photographing this actor when I noticed the row of lights in a café. I asked him to go inside and shot him through the window at a wide aperture. The lights make an interesting line of perspective, besides providing the illumination for his face.

Low Angle

I deliberately chose a low angle to take this shot as it has given the model a monumental quality. The background was chosen to echo the sculptural aspects of the composition and provides a great contrast to the sky. Note that it also follows the Rule of Thirds.

Creative Symmetry

Symmetrical composition is perhaps the antithesis of the Rule of Thirds, but works well in the right situation. I carefully posed this girl on a tiled floor so that she appears to be on a grid. She is lit from a large window behind her and two reflectors in front. I paid great attention to getting the symmetry right, even down to the position of the hands and fingers.

Creative Symmetry

In this shot of the Corinthian Canal in Greece, the subject has been
placed in the centre of the viewfinder. However, all the elements of
the Golden Section are at work. Even the passenger train, perfectly
centred on its track above the canal, emphasises the strong lines of

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. John Freeman's Composition Masterclass: Page 2
  3. 3. John Freeman's Composition Masterclass: Page 3
Page 2 of 3 - Show Full List