Photography composition is an abstract concept and a difficult one to define. But a great photographer knows that good composition breathes life into any photograph. Some professional photographers may say there are no definite rules for composition, but I have a few guidelines to assist the process of capturing beautiful photographs. In this post, let’s explore how using different lenses, as well as understanding aperture, can help vary composition in a photograph by changing the depth of field and angles.
Incorporating techniques of composition and relative concepts can give a touch of quality and professionalism to any photograph and add more joy to you making photographs. For instance, the rule of thirds is possibly the most popular composition technique. It involves splitting the focused frame into 3 sections, horizontally and vertically. Wherever these lines intersect marks a good place for the subject of the photograph to be positioned. This is a common technique of composition, and there are others that help create striking photographs as well. I personally however prefer to go by the feeling evoked within me when I see what I see in my camera’s viewfinder. A good example for me on that is the man in contrast to the containers, in size, position and placement.
Another way to incorporate good composition into a photograph is by creating different depths of field. The depth of field depends on aperture or the lens used. Aperture, in layman’s terms, is the amount of light let in when a photograph is taken. Aperture is measured in what are known as f-stops.
The smaller the f-stop number, the greater amount of light is let in; therefore, an f/2.8 lens setting would let in more light than an f/16. Using a smaller aperture and thus allowing in more light, creates a more shallow depth of field. Generally, in a shallow depth of field, the focal point of the photograph is focused, while the background tends to be blurry. This is a technique used when the photographer wants to emphasize the focal point and take away from background distractions.
Additional examples from my work which utilize a shallow depth of field can be seen here as well as here. You notice how the background is blurry while the subject is crisp sharp. You see it also well in the photograph of my daughter Stella to the right.
For the opposite effect, a high depth of field, meaning that the foreground as well as the background are in focus while you are focusing on a close subject, you can see examples here as well as here. This is generally achieved with an aperture setting of higher than say f/11, depending on your focal length, distance to your subject and several other factors.
Oftentimes and depending on what type of photography you are pursuing, i.e. portrait photography, macro photography, architectural photography, sport photography etc., composition using a shallow depth of field may be well achieved with different lenses. In general, depending on your budget, zoom lenses oftentimes have a higher aperture than prime (fixed) lenses.
A zoom lens lists two different numbers (i.e. Nikon 24-120mm f/4) which implies that the focal range of the lens is from 24mm to 120mm. The smallest f-stop of this particular lens is f/4. The less expensive zoom lenses, such as the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens, have a varying f-stop range, which means that the depth of field ability of the lens automatically adjusts to the selected focal length.
A prime lens does not zoom, which means the photographer physically moves the camera and lens to change the frame of view. Prime lenses have only one focal length and therefore list only one number (i.e. Nikon 50mm f/1.2). You can find out more about Nikon lenses here and about Canon’s photo lenses here. And if you want some further in depth information on aperture please follow here.
Also, notice how the second lens, the Nikon 50mm, has a much smaller f-stop number; this means that the lens is optimal for photographs with a shallow depth of field. Recommended lenses for shallow depth include the Nikon 50mm f/1.2. (This is also available for Canon and Sony cameras.) Generally speaking a 50mm is a great starter prime lens and can be inexpensive as well.
Now, the above are general kind of rules. There are many additional components that play a decisive role as to how a photograph will turn out in the end. Some of those coming to mind right away are the utilization of wide angle vs. telephoto lenses, exposure time in conjunction with ISO setting and many more. These however are topics for upcoming posts so bookmark and check back soon…
In the meantime, if you wish to find out more about how to improve the various aspects of your photography skills, and to receive immediate feedback on your photographs, consider a professional and affordable one on one photography consultation here.
The composition of a photograph is important to developing works of art. By providing this knowledge of how a variety of lenses and their aperture settings can help vary composition, I hope to have offered some basic insights and tools essential to creating fresh and compelling photographs. Thank you, happy clicking and be good to your Self 🙂
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Marian Kraus Photography is a Chicago area based professional architectural photographer, multi media artist and fine art photographer who has been consistently delivering compelling architectural photography to clients including architects, advertising agencies, home builders, corporations, real estate companies and the like since 1999. Additionally, Marian Kraus Photography’ s nature and architecture fine art photographs can be found in a growing number of corporate and private art collections.