All right then, we’ve learned about maximizing depth-of-field (dof) and sharpness in our images, and discovered that many strong dof images are landscapes or other images with a distinct foreground, mid-ground and background. Now we want to take a look at compositional elements that can help us capture a truly compelling strong dof image. All the rules of photographic composition can apply here, but there are some that lend themselves to landscapes and strong dof situations more than others.
Here are some things you may wish to consider:
- Give your viewers something to focus on. Your landscape should have a clear subject that draws the eye.
- Watch where you place the horizon and especially avoid the center of the image. If your sky is not interesting, place it in the less dominant upper third and choose a foreground interest to carry the day in the lower two-thirds. Dramatic skies deserve more attention, so give them the upper two-thirds.
- In your final image be sure your horizon is straight. This is easy to fix in post-processing if you didn’t get right in the camera. If you use Adobe Camera RAW, check out the quick and easy way to rotate the horizon in the lens efex section.
- You also want to watch how the horizon merges with the subjects in your image. Try not to have the horizon in line with the roof of a house, for instance
- Use lines to draw your viewer into the image, and don’t forget curves, too.
- Look for ways to provide a frame within a frame. Sometimes foreground branches can provide exactly what you need
- Just because it’s a landscape doesn’t mean you can’t have animal life in the image. Wildlife and even people can provide added interest to your photo.
- Work your subject from various perspectives. Once you leave the scene it’s too late, so try different viewpoints (yes, use your feet) before you leave the site. If you have more than one subject, give them all space.
- Balance is especially important in a landscape. Balance your negative space, although it often doesn’t take that much to balance it. Consider color, texture, a smaller subject. Some people prefer a scene that moves from left to right, the way we read in Western culture. If that’s what you are aiming for, then you need to have heavier elements on the left and lighter elements on the right. You can sometimes accomplish this by simply flipping your image 180 degrees horizontally, if you didn’t capture the image that way initially. This may also improve the flow. Remember that the eye of the viewer will move from the heaviest parts to the lighter in weight, and from the darker to the lighter in tone. Don’t have your viewers going in two different directions at once!
- Try to include something in your image that will give your viewer a sense of scale, so they can place the scene in their own perspectives.
Do you have other favorite landscape “rules”? If so, let us know.
You may ask why I am going through this elaborate exercise. These three blogs were designed primarily to help members of my club, the Tidewater Camera Club, based in Easton, Maryland, to prepare for an upcoming competition themed, yeah you guessed it, “Strong Depth-of-Field.” So forgive me for being a bit pedantic. Fellow club members, you’ve been armed with the fundamentals, now go out there and shoot compelling images. I’m expecting big things from you!
P.S. I entitled this “landscape blues” because I HATE photographing landscapes. I hope you have better experiences with the genre.