Why Is Composition Important?

May 26, 2010

As we get ready to photograph our children you might ask why is composition important? After all, for years we have just grabbed the camera, pointed it in the direction of our subject(s), and snapped the picture, right?

Well, now that we have children, and we want to get some great shots of our children to record their history, it is time to get serious about the business of taking their pictures. We have discussed the finer points of what makes a great camera, and how to keep it clean, but now we need to get down to the real work and photograph our kids!

Have you ever been on vacation, whipped out your camera upon seeing your loved ones in a setting you feel is lovely, and then been somewhat underwhelmed with the final results when we get the prints? If so, you have just learned the first golden rule of photography: the reality you see is quite different from what the camera sees! If you don’t think about this every time you frame a photograph you will always be disappointed.

There are a number of reasons why your camera sees things differently than you do. To begin with, your eyes are not little optical machines that function in a vacuum. Quite the opposite, what you see is interpreted, enhanced and supplemented by your brain.

Children Playing

Children Playing

In a way, when you see a majestic landscape while hiking through the mountains of Colorado, some of the beauty of the scene is being added to by your brain. Pick up a camera, look through the viewfinder, and you will get a completely different objective view of the scene without any intelligent enhancement.

Simple: that is because the camera is a little optical machine and it has no brain!

Add to that the fact that the camera has a limited range of focus, exposure and composition than you do. The camera can only see a static scene when it snaps the photograph, while our eyes are continually moving and recomposing the view. Moreover, the pupils of our eyes constantly adjust to changing light conditions in response to the changing light conditions. The pupils of our eyes are like aperture in the camera, the biggest difference being that our pupils can change instantaneously, while the lens of the camera has to select a single aperture (opening) at a single moment in time.

Yes, our eyes, working with our brain, are creating a visual panoply that is difficult, if not impossible, to recreate on paper. Its amazing that we can even get any good pictures at all considering the limitation of our cameras.

Look around you. If you look carefully you will realize that our field of vision is rectangular with rounded corners – in other words, we see the world as a panorama. This is not the kind of shot cameras take.

Our job when photographing our children against this panoramic backdrop is to translate the scene into an attractive photograph using the laws of photographic composition. To get what we want means we need to take a lot of photographs using different composition to get exactly what we want.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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