earlier article on using GIMP
to straighten photos
Wikipedia's article on the Rule of
article on the Rule of Thirds
on Windows Live Photo Gallery
on Windows Photo Gallery
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|The term 'landscape' here has two related
meanings. When you take a picture of rural scenery, that's a
landscape photo. Doing that, you usually hold the camera so that
the photo will be wider than it is high, and that's called the
landscape orientation, as opposed to the portrait orientation, which
produces a photo that is higher than it is wide. Landscape
photography is fun and easy because, generally, the scene just sits
there and lets you shoot it, as opposed to puppies and children, for
example, that don't. But there's an artful way to do
You can see a beautiful scene and immediately take a picture of it only
to be disappointed in the resulting, less-than-beautiful photo.
If you take some time to compose each photo and keep a few simple
principles in mind as you shoot and also as you finally edit your
landscapes, you'll have better results with the pictures you take.
Compose the elements
After you straighten a photo, identify its most
interesting part or parts-- its subject. It's probably what made
you decide to take the photo in the first place. It might be the
sky or the way the light shines on some water, or a particular object
like a tree, or a group of such things. Notice how these parts
fit together and into the scene as a whole. Now decide which
elements of the scene don't belong and that distract from the
interesting parts. The simpler the composition, the easier for
the eye of the beholder to take it in and recognize it as such.
Organizing the elements so that everything is just where it should be
is best done when you shoot the photo, but consider using the crop tool
of your editing software to eliminate the distractions and simplify the
composition. Keep in mind that cropping is a “lossy” thing to do
and that your photos will be physically smaller for it. This is a
good reason to use a camera with lots of megapixels and always use the
setting on your camera that produces the largest photos.
Tell a “story”
A good landscape composition has a foreground, a middle and a
background, in much the same way that a good story has a
beginning/introduction, a main section and an ending. In the
foreground we see details related somehow to the subject. Behind
the foreground, in the middle ground and in very clear focus, we see
the interesting part or parts. Behind those things, in the
background, we see elements that complete the setting of the scene:
rolling hillside, sky, mountains, or whatever.
Apply the Rule of Thirds
Artists realized centuries ago that if the subject is in the center of
the scene, the composition is not nearly as effective as when it is off
to the side. Photos with this centered-subject problem just look
like snapshots. According to the Rule of Thirds, there are ideal
locations for the subject. To find them, imagine four
evenly-spaced lines drawn across your scene, dividing the entire photo
into horizontal and vertical thirds as in the figure below.
The Rule of Thirds
|The four places
where the lines intersect are the most effective spots for the subject,
though along any of the lines is better than at center. Further,
the most effective use of those spots, in the case of a subject in
parts, is to locate those parts in diagonally opposite spots if
|In photos that include the horizon, crop
the horizon on or near one of
the horizontal lines. If the subject is below the horizon, use
upper line for the horizon. If the subject is in or is seen
the sky, or if the sky or part of the sky is the subject, place the
horizon on the lower line. When using the rule of thirds this
may NOT be necessary to locate the subject at or near an intersection
of the lines.
Looking for photo editing software with a cropping tool?
Macintosh computers come with iPhoto, which has a good set of basic
editing tools, including a crop tool with Rule of Thirds
guidelines. Windows 7 comes with Windows Live Photo Gallery,
which also has a good set of basic editing tools, including a
crop tool. Windows Vista comes with Windows Photo Gallery, which
does include a crop tool. Windows XP comes with Paint, which is
pretty useless in this context, but XP users can install and use the
free photo editing
application, GIMP. A future article in this series will detail
cropping with GIMP.
There are other things that add strength and interest to a composition,
like diagonals and S-curves that lead the eye to the subject, and there
are ways to use the Rule of Thirds in portraits and portrait-oriented
photos. Further, the Rule of Thirds is meant to be broken
sometimes, too. Experiment with it. Do some reading in the
links at the left and begin to compose your photos and crop them to
enhance your compositions.
May 27, 2012