The use of negative space in fine art nude figure study.
Rule of thirds
When it comes to photography, the rule of thirds is applied in such a manner that you will be aligning the subject with the help of guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line or allowing linear features in the image to flow from one section to the other. The rule of thirds is the most popular principle in photography composition. In most photography classes, this is probably the first principle which digital photographers will learn as it forms the base for capturing well-balanced and interesting shots.
What does rule of thirds state?
The rule of thirds states that – An image is most appealing to the eyes when its subjects or regions are composed along imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds (should be both vertically and horizontally).
It is interesting that the rule appears to be mathematical and can still be applied in photographs. Surprisingly, this rule works incredibly well. The rule of thirds makes the shots appear more engaging as it brings out the aesthetic features of the subject by:
· Creating a sense of balance
· Doesn’t make the image appear too static
· Adding a sense of complexity
· Hinders the image from appearing too busy.
Let us review a little history on rule of thirds:
The rule of thirds has been around for a long time and it can be traced back to the 1800’s. During this era, painting was the most popular form of art. The rule of thirds was known as golden mean especially when the Greeks were exploring the world and building extraordinary temples to please their gods.
Components of the Rule of Thirds
Without some certain elements, you will be applying another rule rather than the ‘rule of thirds’. The most important components of rule of thirds include:
- 9 Equal Boxes
- 4 Intersecting Points
- 2 Horizontal Lines
- 2 Vertical Lines
Rule of Thirds and Your Subject
In the rule of thirds, you should always place the important components of your subject or image at intersecting points. Your main objects may be people, buildings, animals and more. By doing so, your image will be well balanced and your viewers will easily move through your image. The rule of thirds is based off a subconscious movement throughout the image or artwork in such a way that the viewer’s eye pauses longer at one of the four intersecting corners rather than at other areas. For instance, the Modern dSLR cameras often show the grid view on the back display of ‘live mode’ camera. In addition, you can activate a similar grid using Adobe Light-room and Adobe Photoshop.
The theory behind rule of thirds is that by placing the points of interest in the intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced and the viewer of the image will engage with it naturally. From previous studies, it was proved that most viewer’s eyes will go to one of the intersection points rather than at the center of the shot. Therefore, when using the rule of thirds, you should always think about the important elements of the picture and try to position them near the lines or intersections. They don’t have to be perfectly aligned but should be close.
Examples of rule of thirds:
The rule of thirds is very flexible and it can be used on almost any object. Here are some good examples of where it can be used and how to apply it:
1. In landscape photos: In most cases photographers will position the horizon along the center of the frame. This will give the photo a ‘split into two’ feel. Instead you should place it along the horizontal lines. If there are interesting objects in the photo, you should try to place them along the intersecting lines or as close as possible since they will act as anchors from a natural point of view.
2. When capturing shots of people: It is always smart to place people off to one side of the frame as this shows the subject’s environment and ‘breathing space’. Without any doubt, we are usually drawn to people’s eyes hence they should be placed at the intersection lines of the rule of thirds. This will give the shot a vivid focal point.
3. Vertical objects: Let us say you want to take a shot on a lighthouse. The best way to go about this is by positioning the object at off-center of your frame.
4. Moving objects: In moving objects such as a rider on a horse or a biker, it is important to place them as normal as they appear while at the same time paying attention to the direction they are moving. You should always leave more space in front of them rather than behind.
How can we improve our photos?
The best and most efficient way for a beginner to improve the quality of the shots taken is by cropping. By using cropping software, we will be able to reposition the important objects in your photo. Software such as Photoshop and Light-room can come in handy as they have crop guide overlays which include the rule of thirds option. As you get better your need to crop photos in postproduction will decrease. Strive to get as much right in your viewfinder before you push the shutter release on your camera and your ability to see the world in terms of composition will greatly improve as well as the quality of your photos.
In very rare cases we will find an image in which we cannot apply rule of thirds. In such cases, we might give the photo a sense of balance without making the subject appear too static.
Breaking the Rule of Thirds
Rules are made to be broken. That’s what they say from where I come from. Just like other rules in photography, the rule of thirds will not apply in all situations. Therefore, by breaking it on some shots might results in a more eye-catching and interesting photo. But you should fully understand the rule of thirds before breaking it. This way you will be certain of what you are doing while trying to get a better composition. Try breaking the rules on some of the photos you have captured using the rule of thirds and compare the two.
Plan a day of shooting when you have a little free time, if you have only a little time available just work around you house. Find a subject that you have shot or want to shoot. Now as you start to work keep in mind the Rule of Thirds. If you are working with landscape try placing the horizon on the bottom third, top third and then just in the center of the frame. If you have a specific subject you are working with try moving the camera so that the subject falls on each line as well as intersecting lines of the Rule of Thirds. When you get back to your computer download the images and really take a close look at each one until you narrow the field of photos to one. Finally, ask yourself what makes this the best photo. Now you are not only using the Rule of Thirds but also learning how to apply it in a practical real world situation.
In the photo below you will notice that model Zeva has been placed on the left third of the frame. I also placed the rough building skyline on the top third of the frame creating a stronger composition. With regard to the bottom third being located near Zeva’s bottom and the top of the brick she was sitting on was just luck. As you get better at working with the Rule of Thirds you will find that utilizing two of the dividing lines strengthens you composition like in this example. I did break one Rule of Composition in this photo as Zeva is facing away from the negative space in the photo. I find this personally appealing and think it adds some tension to the otherwise beautiful scene. Some people would completely disagree and tell you that by breaking this rule I ruined an otherwise good photo. As stated above, break the rules while following them to suit your own taste. I would however recommend learning the rules before you start to try and break them.
Please come back next week for another video review and discussion.
This is another shot of Shannon Purdy on a coal tailing in Madrid, New Mexico. This photo is taken from the opposite angle to the one we have already discussed.
Principals of composition: The first thing you may notice right away is the difference in contrast between Shannon and the very black coal she is climbing on. Also note that the clouds in the background also support this contrast and give softness to the image by difference in texture. I placed the trees near the bottom left of the frame to give a sense of depth and scale. Shannon has been placed on the right third line in this photo we her figure being located on the Golden Section. Anytime you can frame your composition using the Golden Sections it will surely strengthen your image and give you something to work with. In the next overlay you will see as before the strong use of diagonals in this composition.
Notes on this image: Shannon showed how much of a trooper she really is during this photo. The wind was constantly blowing small as well as very large pieces of coal straight into her face. She never said a thing and just let me shoot as if it were a calm day. After a few shots I went up to get some close in shots and noticed her face was black with little pieces of coal and asked her if she was okay. Right as the question left my mouth a huge gust blew and I was covered in black dust. I told her we were getting out of the mining business and helped her down the hill to a more shelter area to work in.
When first learning shoot, use the basic rules of composition until you get a feel for your own personal style. Once you have shot several different locations or models a style will become more evident to you. Everyone has their own style and knowing yours is important to your future growth. Models will also get to learn your shooting style and will seek you out to work with based on your portfolio. I would suggest finding someone you really like and try shooting the same style of image they have shot. Even when you are trying to shoot a very similar photo to one of your favorite photographers you will be able to pick up on slight differences in your own work. After a little time you will easily recognize a certain look to your photos.
Next week we will be discussing the final photo of this segment. Please come back for that post, as I will be making everyone a special offer. Also please sign up to the newsletter to keep up to date on our long-term project we have going called, “My Nude Year.” You can sign up by going to (http://beta.privy.com/s/fr18tsI).
Thanks for reading everyone,
One of my favorite photos of model Shannon Purdy’s first shoot is “Dark eyes.” The dark shadows give Shannon the appearance of having black pools for eyes. Our minds naturally seek out a person’s eyes in a photo and with them being so dark it makes our viewers search for any detail that may be discovered. The contrast of Shannon’s nipples slightly darker than the blown out flesh of her body lead the viewers eyes down to the appearance of a line enclosed in shadow between her legs enticing the viewer. Things hidden in shadow or by an object make your viewer try to recreate it in their mind.
Principals of composition: Using the Rule of Thirds in the photo with Shannon looking into the negative space makes the viewer at peace with the overall composition. The rock shelf Shannon is leaning on rests both on the top and bottom thirds of the image and Shannon is nearly bisected by the right third.
Notes on this image: This photo has a somewhat sinister feel to it. The dark shadows and extreme contrast give Shannon a strange feel. If you ever met her you would know she is the exact opposite of this look. It is always interesting when you can capture someone on film in a pose or featured emotion that is opposite their personality.
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In this post we covered on element of composition and in the next post we will cover another one present in this photo.
Thank you and see you next time,
This week we will be discussing my first shoot with model Little Liz. When I was looking to book models for my first shoot I asked potential applicants to send me a short description of themselves and a creative nude photo. One of the first responses came from Little Liz and was to this day the most creative photo submission I have received from a potential model. I opened my inbox to discover a photo of a very cute brunette with a large tattoo atop of a pink bike taken in her living room, fantastic. I knew from that moment I had to work with her at all costs.
Little Liz has one of the largest tattoos I have ever seen in person. It is a single geisha girl cutting a snake’s head off and it encompasses her whole side. It is extremely detailed and very colorful. During that first shoot I wanted to find a creative way to show off her wonderful work. In the master bedroom closet of the model home we were working in was a mirrored settee and I took a chance that I could create something with it.
Principals of composition: My main focus was the tattoo but I wanted to feature Liz’s body in the frame as well as her reflection in the mirror. Without intension I placed the tattoo on the left third of the image as seen by the darker red line in the example shown. Liz’s chest and stomach are wonderful elements of foreground interest in this photo and strengthen the overall quality of the composition. Liz’s breast and nipples are near enough the golden section (intersecting points) in the top left third to draw the views eye to the head of the geisha in the tattoo. The changes of color/texture created by the wide array of lines in the tattoo insure the views eye is locked into the image and will explore the detailed present. The soft gentle curves of Liz’s body complement the photo without detracting from the focal point.
Notes on this image: Shoot what you feel will look good. I thought that having both the actual body as well as the mirrored reflection in the photo would look great and the results were far beyond my expectations. Little Liz and I have worked together on a few occasions and she is so much fun to be around. Her personality really shows up in her photos. She is light hearted yet very passionate about her work. She put everything she had into our shoots together. If you ever decide to work with someone and don’t have a lot of information about them or a large body of work to view I would suggest having a few chat sessions with them. If they give you a good feel in the chats work with them however if you just don’t really click give them a pass and move on. A models personality will show up in your images and it is worth taking a little time to find someone you enjoy being around and has similar goals as you.
In my next post we will talk about how my wonderful wife started posing as a figure model. Surprisingly it happened in an unexpected way.
Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you are having a great time for the long weekend if your boss was nice enough to let you off. We celebrate some many different customs at this time. First we bring evergreens into our homes. Evergreens to the Hebrews and Egyptians symbolized eternal life. We give gifts in the name of Saint Nicholas, which provides help to the poor and needy. Finally and most importantly we honor the birth of the Christ child named Jesus. Jesus came not to pass judgment on the world but to give us a way to be redeemed even though we are sinners. Thank God for that.
This week I promised you a review of a photo from my first shoot. I will start with a photo of J.R. who was the first person I ever shot and was also the first photo I was to get published. This photo is still one of my favorite photos and I keep a copy of it in my portfolio.
Principals of composition:
The first thing this image has going for it is that it is an implied nude. The photo makes your eve try and connect the dots to make it a nude. Sorry that is just our nature. You are given enough to get your imagination going but not the full nude image.
As detailed below the photo features strong composition with regard to the rule of thirds. If you will notice J.R.’s face as well as her foremost leg falls on the left third line.
In the next example of the photo you will notice that J.R. hands as well as her cheek lye on the intersection of the golden triangle sections. Her leg also supports a strong feel of diagonal composition with several other implied triangles.
In our third and final example J.R.’s pose has a feel for the golden spiral. It is not a direct comparison but it is really close and gives the viewer that general flow and feel to the overall composition of the photo.
I have stated before and will in the future this is one of the luckiest shoots ever. I did not know enough about composition to plan this and it just happened. One thing that really helped this photo was the fact that J.R. was and experienced model. Had she been an amateur model I more than likely would have never seen this image appear before me. As with all things photography in any spectrum takes practice. The truth of the matter is everyone will tell you to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more and I’m right there with them. If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life that will let you practice on them do it every chance you get. Make it a daily thing if you can. Even if you never post the photos it will help you get better. Second is to read, read, and read some more. Look for books that will help to introduce new ideas you may not have thought of. Most books cost under $25 on Amazon and are a small investment in your future success.
In my next post I will be breaking down a shot of my second model Little Liz. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and I will be here when you come back.