Aspect ratios and compositional theory

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Round plate in a square frame. The composition is ostensibly balanced, but a little randomization is created by the uneven lighting. Leica D-Lux 5

Aspect ratio: image width/ image height, with the long dimension first.

There are six common aspect ratios for cameras today (and as many as you like if you use the crop tool, but that’s another subject for another day):

1:1 – Square format, traditionally the realm of 6x6cm Hasselblads, and now popularized by various mobile apps.

5:4 – Large format and sheet film cameras, mainly 8×10″.

4:3 – Broadcast television and video used this aspect ratio, originally in 640×480 pixel resolution; small sensor cameras and compacts (which inherited early video CCD architecture) have been using this aspect ratio ever since. Four Thirds and Micro Four thirds are the larger consumer formats to use it; in medium format there’s also 645 which has the same aspect ratio for both film and digital.

3:2 – Double a movie frame; famously invented when Oscar Barnack rotated the film through 90 degrees and doubled the width of the frame to create the 24x36mm ‘full frame’ 35mm camera format. Almost all larger sensored DSLRs use this today.

16:9 – HDTV format; not a native aspect ratio for digital still cameras, but useful to provide a more cinematic feel to an image.

2.35/2.40:1 – Motion picture widescreen for feature films; very rarely used for still photography, and there are certainly no dedicated digital still cameras that offer exclusively this format. Not only is it extremely wide, if you’re cropping down from a 4:3 sensor you’re throwing away more than half of your image.

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16:9 and cinematic. Note how the whole subject isn’t necessary for you to identify it. Nikon D700, AFS 85/1.4 G

Most modern cameras offer different image sizes in-camera, though all they really do is crop the top and bottom or sides. There are a few digital cameras that have sensors bigger than the lens’ image circle, which allow the diagonal angle of view for a given focal length to be maintained when changing crop; the main one of these is the Panasonic LX series of cameras. Put one of these on a tripod, slide the aspect ratio switch on the lens barrel and you’ll notice that the horizontal field of view gets wider than the 4:3 option, even though this is the native aspect ratio of the sensor. (It also means that you don’t suffer as much of a resolution decrease as you’d expect when changing aspect ratios). There is no point in shooting in another aspect ratio if all the camera does is throw away the extra pixels; you’re better off capturing as much information as you can at the time of shooting and then deciding later what crop would work best (assuming, of course, that you didn’t compose correctly at the time.)

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Filling the frame – native 4:3 of the Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini, uncropped. 45/1.8

Now that’s out of the way, the aim of this article is to focus on understanding the compositional impact of different aspect ratios, and more importantly, how to pick the right aspect ratio for a given subject.

There are two ways to go about this – either you shoot only one aspect ratio (for instance 3:2 because you have a digital SLR) and arrange the contents of your frame around it, or you keep an open mind and match the aspect ratio to respect the subject and the dynamic of your composition. For instance, you might use a 1:1 square for a round object if you want a balanced frame, or you might use 16:9 and just focus on one curve if you want to highlight a particular detail in a cinematic manner – you never see movie shots showing the whole of Earth, for instance; it’s always a hemisphere with the sun rising in just the right place. This is not a coincidence!

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(Nearly) symmetric, but visually balanced. The two are not the same thing. Leica M9-P

Most people will stick to the aspect ratio that is native to the camera, and either do nothing else, or crop to fit later. This is compositionally very, very sloppy – not only do you not get the best frame for the shape of your subject, there’s a very good chance that you probably won’t be able to fill the frame properly, either; 3:2 is a bit of a compromise aspect ratio that lacks the organic intimacy of 5:4 or 4:3 for portraits, or the drama of 16:9 for more expansive scenes.

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Symmetry. Nikon D700, AFS 60/2.8 G

If you crop to fit the subject exactly, then chances are you’ll probably also land up with a very boring frame – this time, because the composition is too balanced. It seems counterintuitive, but the reality is that such compositions tend to use the space around the subject as a frame, and nothing else; there is no context, secondary subjects or points of interest added.

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Balanced, but not at all symmetric.

Don’t despair too much if this situation seems a bit damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The good news is that the one obvious remaining strategy usually works the best if done correctly: learn to fill your frame. For the most part, this is how I operate unless I know the final output (usually client work) is going to be of an certain aspect ratio, or if the scene itself just cries out for a certain shape.

What does filling the frame entail? Well, for one, you should be able to identify your subject – that’s composition 101. The remaining space should be filled with elements that either echo your subject, strengthen the story, or give the subject context. But in no way should they distract the eye from the primary subject. And each smaller element should be placed in the remaining space in a balanced manner.

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The leading space of anticipation. Depth of field control and lighting make it clear what’s part of the foreground/ subject, and what’s part of the background and is context.

Here’s a visual example, using dots to represent compositional elements. The big red circle is the subject. The lighter color/ lower saturation dots are the secondary, tertiary and other filler.

First we place the main subject; where exactly in the frame is up to you, but in general, you leave leading space in front of the subject’s orientation if you want to create expectation (i.e. if a person is in profile, then put most of the space in front of their nose); trailing space if you want to create urgency or drama; or alternatively, let the supporting background elements dictate where to put the primary subject. For this example, let’s just pick an arbitrary starting location – all dots look pretty much the same. I’m going to pick 3:2 as our example aspect ratio.

3-2 composition example primary

Now the secondaries – put them in the white space, with balanced space around them to create both an isolating/ highlighting frame, and a buffer zone between them and the main subject so they don’t get confused or overlapped:

3-2 composition example secondary

And the same for the tertiaries.

3-2 composition example tertiary

The other filler rests wherever it rests, but just make sure that distracting elements – say a huge point highlight like the sun, in this case, the blue dot – don’t go in distracting places.

3-2 composition example fluff

There – a balanced composition. There isn’t any odd empty space that doesn’t have an equivalent mirror along a given horizontal or vertical (or for that matter, any other orientation) axis. Let’s try this again for 1:1 and the same size original subject:

1-1 compositional example complete

And finally, 16:9:

16-9 compositional example complete

Notice how for the 16:9 example I didn’t show the whole subject; you don’t always need to. Just so long as you can identify what the subject is, you’ll be fine. In fact, it’s quite easy to imagine this particular frame as say a sunrise over the edge of earth (using our previous example) with a fleet of spaceships in the foreground…
(Oops, I’m getting carried away. Perhaps I should take up modern art, or perhaps designing colorblindness tests.)

More seriously there’s a secondary subject intersecting the main subject – does it matter? Only if the intersection causes some perceived division of either, e.g. a horizontal line running through somebody’s head would tend to suggest decapitation to a view, and consequently looks rather odd for a portrait. However, there are also examples where such intersections or juxtapositions can create interesting images in their own right.

Notice how each composition is balanced, but you still instantly know what the main subject is.

Want to make this exercise more realistic? Okay, let’s go back to 3:2 and do one for wide angle, with emphasized perspectives and huge relative size differences in dots:

3-2 wideangle

And another one for telephoto, with the foreground and background dots blurred to replicate shallow depth of field:

3-2 telephoto

Once again, notice how your eye is still drawn to the main subject in each composition. Of course, real life isn’t quite this easy; subjects aren’t dots, the white spaces aren’t always uniformly white, and most of all, you almost never have any control over where to put anything else except your main subject; most of the time it’s about waiting for the secondaries to move, or you moving (for immobile subjects) to get the vantage point that works. The only time you have full control is when you’re shooting still life in a studio.

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Note how the empty space serves to highlight the (highlighted) subject. Nikon D700, AFS 85/1.4 G

One interesting thing I’d like to bring up at this point is our very restricted use of verticals – almost always, verticals are in more square aspect ratios; 3:2 is about the slimmest vertical aspect ratio you see. You almost never see 16:9 or anything wider; my theory is that it’s both to do with how our eyes natively see, and how content is presented. Since human eyes are horizontally tandem, we tend to see in a wider horizontal field than vertical; a tall image forces our eyes to scan up and down its length, which means that such images are difficult to compose because they must be broken into zones with complimentary transitions for the composition to work. (The same is not true for horizontals, because we can take in the image at a glance and instantly recognize the surrounding areas as context.)

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The secondary subject reinforcing the primary, empty space creates anticipation. Nikon D700, AFS 28-300VR

Making things worse, almost all displays are geared towards this ergonomic trend – as makes sense – when was the last time you saw a vertical monitor? Furthermore, we get subconscious reinforcement through other means that horizontal is the way to go: most cameras only have one grip, and even those that have two make shooting landscapes much easier than portraits; even after we shoot, when we view the images on a monitor, the verticals take up about a third of the space, but the horizontals nearly the entire area – obviously, the larger ones look better, so we tend not to be as influenced by the vertical images…

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We needed to have at least one vertical in here. Nikon D700, Zeiss ZF 85/1.4 Planar

However, with practice, you’ll learn to see this way – and with more practice, you’ll learn to see this in the instant you identify what you want to have as your main subject; along with lighting, focus, exposure etc. Fortunately, visual pattern recognition is something that human brains are very good at, even for things that have zero fixed quantitative parameters. For example, we know something is a dog even if it’s in a different orientation, different size, a line drawing or a photograph, or a stylized graphic silhouette. Try programming a computer to do this, and you’ll soon realize both how impossible a task quantifying the distinguishing parameters of a dog is, and what an amazing piece of hardware our brains are. (If you disagree, what marks the difference between a wolf and a dog? Or a dog and a cat? Or a dog and a cow? They’re all four-legged with tails and pointy ears.)

Once again, it comes down to practice. The more you shoot and the more images your brain sees, the faster it becomes at picking out compositions in a live scene that work against ones that don’t. I know that isn’t a concrete answer, but shouldn’t you be out shooting now? :) MT

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Comments

  1. Shah Mohd Adnan says:

    That is SUCH an amazing article. All I can say is 1) Wow 2) Thank you muchly.
    -Shah-

  2. What a great post. Thank you for sharing.

  3. William Jusuf says:

    wow Ming

    this article really help
    Great writing

    Thanks a lot
    William

  4. Thank you very much for this article. But another question. Why did you decide for Nikon over Canon? I see you shooting a lot with nikon and some stuff with other cameras. But you main is definitely Nikon. Why?

    • Historical legacy, more than anything – the D70 was much more camera than the 300D at the time I was buying, and my neighbors and friends had Nikon lenses I could borrow. I contemplated switching but the attitude of the Canon CPS people here put me off. In any case, I stayed with Nikon because of the quality of its macro lenses, and over that, the flexibility of its flash system – especially for macro work.

  5. Very interesting and so timely. I have a Panasonic GH1 and after two or so years have just started to experiment with the different ratios the sensor permits. In photographing the London Eye ferris wheel the other night, (it has been illuminated specially for the 2012 Olympics) I chose the 1:1 aspect ratio to balance the frame. I think it worked well.

  6. Great article Ming, not just informative (which it really is), but gorgeous all along.

  7. This article is an excellent example of why I’m subscribed to your blog.

  8. greggmack says:

    “Most people will stick to the aspect ratio that is native to the camera, and either do nothing else, or crop to fit later. This is compositionally very, very sloppy – ” . Gulp…. I guess I’m guilty of that myself, although I do try to get the composition to be as good as I can arrange it before I click the shutter.

    Very interesting article, thank you!

  9. Well, I’m off to shoot some partial subjects 16:9 in the rain with the olympus 45 1.8 — thanks for the inspiration — gorgeous stuff, again!

  10. I hope you believe the saying about “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – or in this case adding your blog’s link to a post.

    As soon as I read this post of yours yesterday, I knew I had found my post for today.
    http://edkphoto.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/aspect-ratios-and-compositional-theory/

    Great post (yours, not mine). Thanks.

  11. You have touched on something most photographers wrestle with – composition – and discussed it in a direct and understandable manner. Thank you for taking the time to share. I will be coming back to this for a long time.

    • Thanks! Was a tough article to write – mostly because it’s very difficult to explain in words or graphics something that’s more about intuitive feel than quantitative process.

  12. Thanks again for a very informative article. Are you planning on future workshops in Malaysia? Penang would be a good choice, no?

    • In the planning stages, yes – probably Kuala Lumpur first, then possibly Sabah, Malacca and Penang. We’ll see – depends very much on where the demand is.

  13. Do you think the 16:9 format will become more popular? I shoot mainly w/ a Panasonic GH2 using the 16:9 format as its multi-aspect sensor actually gives a wider image than the native 4:3 format (i.e. its not just cropped). I also think it is a great format given that most of my images will be viewed on a 16:9 computer screen. The problem is that I find printing and framing in this format is expensive / custom. Given that many of us stare at a 16:9 screen all day (computers or TVs) – do you think this format will become more popular and easier for printing?

    • Hard to say; I’m seeing more and more cameras offer this as a native aspect ratio, or as part of those multi-asepect ratio sensors. I personally like it because it matches both human perspective and viewing medium; the only thing I don’t like about it is that it really isn’t well suited to verticals.

  14. Once again another great article. I am going to start toying with aspect ratios in my compositions now. I looked at my cameras and I see that I have several of the options you referred to in your article on my Fuji X100 (loving this little camera!). I am reading through the Nikon D700 manual to see if a variety of aspect ratios are available with that one. I just got it yesterday (birthday present) and I am still learning it. My first dip in the pool of Full Frame. 2 great cameras (esp Image Quality) means I will be having a lot of fun this summer.
    Thanks again for your article!

    • Followup
      I may have to do work with aspect ratios in Lightroom for shots taken with my Nikon D700. I don’t think I can make any changes in camera. Am I correct?

      • There’s a 5:4 crop in camera but otherwise you might as well shoot the full image area and crop afterwards to give yourself more flexibility. The sensor only has one aspect ratio so there isn’t any real benefit in cropping in-camera.

    • Thanks. The D700 will do various crop factors, but the only different aspect ratio is 5:4.

  15. Bokeh is how out of focus is rendered not out of focus itself.

  16. Great article!! What do you think about the golden spiral?

    • Thanks Thomas. I’ve never consciously used it, but I suppose like everything other rule, there are times when it works, and times when it doesn’t…

  17. What’s interesting is there are a lot of judges (want-to-be and legitimate) who instantly discount anything submitted in 4:3 aspect – regardless of technical and compositional merit. It is not viewed as the format a “serious” photographer would use, their opinion not mine. As you hold occasional competitions and perform professional work, I was wondering if you could comment on 4:3 aspect growing in popularity and / or acceptance?

    • Personally – both as a photographer and a judge – I don’t care about the aspect ratio so long as the composition suits the frame and vice-versa – the size of the medium is irrelevant. Does one discount a classical painting because it’s landscape or portrait and in an odd size? No. I use the right aspect ratio for the subject.

  18. Hi Ming, I missed this post and was tracking back through your blog and just read it.
    I love your use of graphic elements to explain compositional principals. Not sure if your aware, but this is pretty much exactly the foundation taught in graphic design courses. I learned how to compose layout through the Scale, Tension & Dynamic (STD) theory using basic geometric shapes at design school. Now 15 years on, I’m a Creative Director, and I still explain the STD theory to junior colleagues as the basis to creating compelling visuals.

    In my photography personal I apply the same theory in the lens, as I do for my clients. The joy from it though, is that it is dependent on being in the moment vs creation of a longer (design) time frame.

    More time spent utlizing the basic fundamentals as you’ve shown, and less on the techno mum jumbo woudl most definitley produce better images i fee. Great article – well explained.

    • Oddly though, I’ve never seen it used much in photography – a lot of people I showed here drew blank faces. Glad you agree!

      • Yeah either have I, which was why I was presently surprised when I saw you article. I was skimming through it visually first, hadn’t read the content but stopped and took a closer look when I saw the diagrams as I recognized the principles.

        I see photography pretty much the same way I do graphic design. I look for shapes, layers, foreground/background, tone and texture exactly the same way. Though the surface manifestations may be differ in the final compositions, strip them back to their bare essence (like your diagrams above) and the relationship is clearly apparent.

        • I think the principles of composition should be the same, regardless of the medium. I’m sure artists are (were?) taught the same way; modern photographers can learn a lot from studying the way classical artists used light…

  19. Rollei 6×6 first “paradigma” as Leica for 24×36 or code 135. Rollei format, please not Hasselblad!!!!!!

  20. I’m standing while I write to applaud you on this very well written explanation. Your article should be a mandatory read for anyone owning/buying a camera! (or wishing to capture an image via any device!) I’m hoping you are planning on writing a follow-up. With the advent of the non-linear, tapeless and celluloid-less…all digital world…everyone has become an Ansel Adams or Nestor Almendros overnight without any prior experience. The problem with that….is that without an academic/technical understanding of what you have stated…the Post Production world now has to spend more time fixing compared to being creative. I’d like your permission to post this in my group on LinkedIn….please contact me to discuss

    • Thanks. Always potential for a follow up, though no idea on what just yet. Sorry, no reposting to Linkedin. It takes me a lot of time to write these things and I don’t get anything out of most reblogs.

  21. salesdeplatamadrid says:

    Hi Ming,
    first of all, sorry for my English, it’s not my native language so I’ll probably make one or two mistakes; Contratulations for this article, it’s great. I just wanted to ask you something: what do you think about combining different aspect ratios in the same photographic project? I mean, for example, when you see a photobook (let’s say, for example Robert Frank’s The Americans), all the photos are shown using the same aspect ratio (in that book, 3:2). Do you think it’s something good to combine the aspects (for instance, puting one photo in 3:2 and the next one 1:1, asuming that that’s the best composition for that specific pictures) or you should use only one aspect for each project in order to add more “uniformity”?
    Thanks in advance for your answer.
    Kind regards,
    Cristobal.

    • Thanks Cristobal. Don’t worry about your English, the meaning is clear – and it’s a very interesting question. If you’re presenting side by side – one photo per page – then I’d try to stick to the same aspect ratio, generally. If you’re presenting as an exhibition of singles, then I think the frame should fit the subject – don’t force the composition to the camera. If there’s some slight variation – e.g. 4:3 and 3:2 – that probably works okay, but you can get around problems with that by making the height consistent and leaving enough border as a buffer.

  22. Ming,

    How do you decide if sky counts as part of the composition or empty space? My thought is Mt Fuji must have sky around it. Also long telephoto lenses might lead to more allowance for sky due to geometrical shapes being formed. When is it Ok to have sky and when is it not? I assume if the subject is too small then the clouds are going to be wrong.

    Best Wishes – Eric

    • No definite answer to this one. Depends if the sky has anything in it – clouds, gradients etc – or not. Then there’s the question of whether the sky space balances out anything else in the frame…

  23. Reblogueó esto en LeoAr Photography / Lex Ariasy comentado:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  24. Excellent guidelines. Thank you for this article. I generally try to match the aspect ratio to the subject. If the composition fits the frame, great, but I could care less about ratios. I’ve heard people claim to always use the full frame as if deviation is sinful. To me that is silly. The sensor frame is an artificial and blind (as in blind to subject) constraint on our view. We have to live within it but do not have to use all of it. Sure, there are special ratios that ‘just look right’ but a bad composition isn’t saved by the ratio whereas the wrong ratio can ruin a composition. I tend to compose long/tall but that is because I favor landscapes and architecture and like the sweeping vistas. My ratios are all over the map. Yes, my framer complains :)

    Love your work. Thanks again for your site.

  25. Reblogged this on saturn1ascends.

  26. hi Ming, any ideas on ratios for a mamiya 7 6 x 7?

  27. I’m a little late to the party, but this is an amazing post that will have a huge impact on my photography! Looking forward to immersing myself with your knowledge. Let me get to the four other tabs open right now.

  28. plevyadophy says:

    35mm CAMERA FORMAT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN INVENTED OR FIRST PRODUCED BY Oscar Barnack/LEICA
    =======================================================================================

    See discussion here: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=129029

    • As we all know though, you don’t need to actually be the first to do or create something to get the credit. You just have to shout the loudest.

      • plevyadophy says:

        Yes indeed. Unfortunately, that is all too often the case. And in this case, it’s pretty disgraceful that Leica have it down as their official history that 35mm is their invention.

  29. “Most people will stick to the aspect ratio that is native to the camera, and either do nothing else, or crop to fit later. This is compositionally very, very sloppy ..”

    I know of a guy who would disagree with this (or at least, he would if he were still with us): Henri Cartier-Bresson famously proclaimed that he never cropped his 35mm 3:2 ratio images and had them printed showing the borders to prove it. Of course, if someone were to take a set of cropping Ls to some of his pics to show how it could have been done better, I’d be interested in seeing it :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Most modern cameras offer different image sizes in-camera, though all they really do is crop the top and bottom or sides. There are a few digital cameras that have sensors bigger than the lens’ image circle, which allow the diagonal angle of view for a given focal length to be maintained when changing crop; the main one of these is the Panasonic LX series of cameras. Put one of these on a tripod, slide the aspect ratio switch on the lens barrel and you’ll notice that the horizontal field of view gets wider than the 4:3 option, even though this is the native aspect ratio of the sensor. (It also means that you don’t suffer as much of a resolution decrease as you’d expect when changing aspect ratios). There is no point in shooting in another aspect ratio if all the camera does is throw away the extra pixels; you’re better off capturing as much information as you can at the time of shooting and then deciding later what crop would work best (assuming, of course, that you didn’t compose correctly at the time.)  [...]

  2. [...] Aspect ratio: image width/ image height, with the long dimension first.There are six common aspect ratios for cameras today (and as many as you like if you use the crop tool, but that’s another subject for another day):1:1 – Square format, traditionally the realm of 6x6cm Hasselblads, and now popularized by various mobile apps…  [...]

  3. [...] Round plate in a square frame. The composition is ostensibly balanced, but a little randomization is created by the uneven lighting. Leica D-Lux 5 Aspect ratio: image width/ image height, with the …  [...]

  4. [...] Most modern cameras offer different image sizes in-camera, though all they really do is crop the top and bottom or sides. There are a few digital cameras that have sensors bigger than the lens’ image circle, which allow the diagonal angle of view for a given focal length to be maintained when changing crop; the main one of these is the Panasonic LX series of cameras. Put one of these on a tripod, slide the aspect ratio switch on the lens barrel and you’ll notice that the horizontal field of view gets wider than the 4:3 option, even though this is the native aspect ratio of the sensor. (It also means that you don’t suffer as much of a resolution decrease as you’d expect when changing aspect ratios). There is no point in shooting in another aspect ratio if all the camera does is throw away the extra pixels; you’re better off capturing as much information as you can at the time of shooting and then deciding later what crop would work best (assuming, of course, that you didn’t compose correctly at the time.)  [...]

  5. [...] Recently he's done a primer article on aspect ratios and composition. Well worth a read, I think. Aspect ratios and compositional theory Gordon __________________ http://www.flashgordonphotography.com.au Flash is completely [...]

  6. [...] Most modern cameras offer different image sizes in-camera, though all they really do is crop the top and bottom or sides. There are a few digital cameras that have sensors bigger than the lens’ image circle, which allow the diagonal angle of view for a given focal length to be maintained when changing crop; the main one of these is the Panasonic LX series of cameras. Put one of these on a tripod, slide the aspect ratio switch on the lens barrel and you’ll notice that the horizontal field of view gets wider than the 4:3 option, even though this is the native aspect ratio of the sensor. (It also means that you don’t suffer as much of a resolution decrease as you’d expect when changing aspect ratios). There is no point in shooting in another aspect ratio if all the camera does is throw away the extra pixels; you’re better off capturing as much information as you can at the time of shooting and then deciding later what crop would work best (assuming, of course, that you didn’t compose correctly at the time.)  [...]

  7. [...] This article and this article both enter into more detail on compositional theory. [...]

  8. [...] that we haven’t touched on composition – that was the subject of extensive analysis in this article. [...]

  9. [...] joining one of my workshops is ideal Together with the basic principles of balance, perspective, composition and what makes a good image – these techniques may be used singly or in combination to [...]

  10. [...] About the author: Ming Thein is a Malaysia-based photographer whose career has spanned fine watches, wildlife, photojournalism, travel, concerts and food. Visit his website here. This post was originally published here. [...]

  11. [...] a nice blog post on the subject of composition and framing when making images for various aspect ratios. These are pretty simple concepts in theory, but only [...]

  12. [...] reading a nice article by Ming Thein about the technical and perceptual differences of various aspect ratio photos, I [...]

  13. [...] If you are serious about your subject then your judgement of the most effective treatment for its representative image determines what aspect ratio you should use. A very creative blogger covered the artistic possibilities well on his site. [...]

  14. [...] ratio has been in the back of my mind ever since reading Ming Thein’s excellent dissection of the concept, and you can see a bit of that in my previous post on widescreen Australia Day. Today’s photo [...]

  15. […] layer in front; the spatial relationship between primary and secondary subjects (this article on compositional theory might be useful reading as background) tells the story, translated into two and three dimensions […]

  16. […] There are two ways to go about this – either you shoot only one aspect ratio (for instance 3:2 because you have a digital SLR) and arrange the contents of your frame around it, or you keep an open mind and match the aspect ratio to respect the subject and the dynamic of your composition. For instance, you might use a 1:1 square for a round object if you want a balanced frame, or you might use 16:9 and just focus on one curve if you want to highlight a particular detail in a cinematic manner – you never see movie shots showing the whole of Earth, for instance; it’s always a hemisphere with the sun rising in just the right place. This is not a coincidence! ~Ming Thein from his article Aspect Ratios and Compositional Theory […]

  17. […] At this point, we’re starting to move away from the technical into the artistic: there is a “right” exposure and point of focus, but there’s no “right” composition — only compositions that look right, and those that don’t. This is a learned skill through practice, critical observation, and analysis of other images. (A primer on compositional theory and how to achieve balance — a composition that doesn’t appear to be “empty” in any place — can be found in this post.) […]

  18. […] 3. Composition. This is the art of arranging all of the elements in your frame into an aesthetically pleasing way, and a way that draws attention to your primary subject. It covers the relationship or implied relationship – spatial, colour, light – between subjects to tell a story. There are many ways you can do this; filling empty space with subjects; finding the right backgrounds or light to make your subjects stand out, and of course careful placement of lines and frames within the composition to lead the viewer’s eye through the image. At this point, we’re starting to move away from the technical into the artistic: there is a ‘right’ exposure and point of focus, but there’s no ‘right’ composition – only compositions that look right, and those that don’t. This is a skill that has to be learned through both practice and critical observation and analysis of other images. A good primer on compositional theory and how to achieve balance – a composition that doesn’t appear to be ‘empty’ in any place – can be found here. […]

  19. […] blog.mingthein.com […]

  20. […] mencerahkan pemahaman saya tentang fotografi. Saya klik semua link yang ada di post itu, dan postingan ini yang akhirnya membuka mata saya tentang apa itu ‘foto yang bercerita’. Penjelasannya […]

  21. […] At this point, we’re starting to move away from the technical into the artistic: there is a “right” exposure and point of focus, but there’s no “right” composition — only compositions that look right, and those that don’t. This is a learned skill through practice, critical observation, and analysis of other images. (A primer on compositional theory and how to achieve balance — a composition that doesn’t appear to be “empty” in any place — can be found in this post.) […]

  22. […] At this point, we’re starting to move away from the technical into the artistic: there is a “right” exposure and point of focus, but there’s no “right” composition — only compositions that look right, and those that don’t. This is a learned skill through practice, critical observation, and analysis of other images. (A primer on compositional theory and how to achieve balance — a composition that doesn’t appear to be “empty” in any place — can be foundin this post.) […]

  23. […] Ming Thein is a photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He specializes in watches, food and architecture / interiors. He is also the author of the Photography Compendium app. You can follow his excellent blog here, his photography on Flickr and his musing on Facebook. This article was originally posted here. […]

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