One of the most important photography techniques is creating a strong accent. Without it, your photo won’t hold the viewer’s attention.
When you are about to take a picture, there are two main questions to answer. What is the main theme of the image? And what can be done to pay attention to it?
The most important part is to find something interesting that will act as the main character. Sometimes it is obvious — for example, it is a person. But often you need to take a closer look.
Once you have decided on the main object, the fun begins. You need to decide how to properly place the subject in the frame in order to create an accent. This is where composition comes in handy.
1. Find a strong center
If you want your photo to make a strong impression, make sure the image has a center of meaning. We call it focus because that’s what the viewer needs to focus on.
If there is no semantic center in the photo, the viewer will forget about your picture as soon as they turn away from it. A strong focus will leave a lasting impression.
Sharp focus immediately gives the viewer an understanding of what you want to represent in a particular photo. Without the person in the picture above, the photo would be rather boring — a brown hill and a gray sky. By including the person in the shot, the photographer has added a focus point that draws attention.
The person in the frame is a great way to create strong focus, especially in landscape photos. People or any other interesting object in a landscape scene adds meaning to the photos.
The focus can also be a tree, a building, a flower, an umbrella, etc. Shoot as if the subject is the most important part of the scene and the reason you are actually taking the picture.
When you go to a photo shoot, take props with you so you can create a focal point if you can’t find it in nature.
Sometimes your image may include multiple focal points, such as the tree and person in the photo above. This works if the objects together create a strong image.
In the photo below, the photographer has placed his hand in the foreground, reaching out towards the light and smoke.
Without the hand, the smoke and rays of light would be the focus in this shot, but when the photographer adds the hand, a little story is created. If you have such a busy scene in front of you, it is very useful to add a strong focus.
2. Use negative space
One of the most beautiful tricks, in my opinion, for creating a strong accent is to leave a lot of negative space in the photo. This empty space allocates the object.
Using negative space allows you to shoot small objects without losing them in the frame. This is a great method for capturing objects at a distance.
In the example above, the photographer was shooting from a distance, so he added an empty sky to the frame, and the tiny object in the distance stood out.
In this photo, the focus point in the center of the frame is quite small, but since the rest of the scene is empty, it remains a strong center that catches the eye.
Don’t be afraid to leave a lot of empty space in your photos. In most cases, this will help give your subject more meaning by creating a strong composition, even if the subject is small in the frame.
3. Use an accent color
Use an object that has a bright color, or just a different color from the background, to draw attention to the object.
Although the lake itself in the photo above is worthy of a separate shot, without a focus point, it would not play.
The red jacket creates a strong accent because the color stands out against the muted tones of nature. This simple trick made the image much more interesting.
The rose draws the attention of the viewer in a way that the grass itself would never be able to. Adding one colored object completely changes the result.
Yes, as you probably guessed, red is one of the most win-win options. It stands out well in almost any scene.
But try experimenting with objects of different colors against a background of different colors.
4. Use the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is probably the most famous composition technique in photography. You should remember this rule, as it will help you position the main object in a winning way.
The rule of thirds looks like this: two horizontal and two vertical lines that create nine rectangular areas of the same size.
The rule of thirds says that you should place your point of interest where two lines intersect, as these are the parts of the frame that attract the human eye.
We perceive object placement to be more harmonious and balanced when it is positioned according to the rule of thirds rather than anywhere else in the frame. So, in the photo above, the woman on the bale of straw is at the intersection of two lines, which creates a natural and balanced composition.
You can turn on the grid in your smartphone app: Settings —> Camera —> Grid (in the Composition section).
You can also use it to avoid blocking the horizon in a photo.
The rule of thirds can be used in all kinds of photography: urban, landscape, portrait, nature, sports, etc.
When you are a beginner, try to use the rule of thirds as often as possible. This will help you start thinking in pictures.
After a while, you will feel more confident and, abandoning the rule of thirds, will start looking for your own ways to compose.
For example, placing an object in the center works well when creating square images because it makes great symmetrical compositions. But the rule of thirds will always support you, don’t forget about it.
5. Use shallow depth of field
Shallow depth of field is when only a small part of the image, a specific subject, is in focus. This is a great way to highlight the main character of the picture.
If you set the focus on the main subject and open the aperture to the maximum, objects in the background will appear blurry. Your eye will be attracted to the object in focus by itself, no matter how loaded the background is. Of course, the background will still be there, but it won’t be as important as the foreground.
Shallow depth of field is great for scenes with busy backgrounds, as shown above. If everything was in focus in this shot, the water droplets would be lost among all the other details.
How to achieve shallow depth of field in iPhone photos?
Bring iPhone close to the subject you are about to shoot, then touch that subject on the screen to set the focus on that part of the scene. As a result, your main subject should be in focus, and the background will be blurry.
If the main subject looks blurry, you’re probably holding your phone too close, so move back a little and then tap the subject again to focus. If the background doesn’t look blurry, then you’re not close enough to the subject, so move closer and click again to focus.
The closer you are to the object you want to focus on, the more blurred the background will be. Experiment with the distance between the camera and the subject until you get the desired result.
When trying to focus on small objects, such as water droplets on spiderwebs, it may take several tries to tap on a specific part of the screen for the camera to focus.
Use portrait mode or the AfterFocus app to create a blurry background.
6. Use Leading Lines
A leading line is a scene line that leads from one part of the shot to the main subject, and a way to draw attention to it.
Leading lines lead the viewer’s eye from the foreground of the image where the line begins to the point in the image where it ends.
Start by looking for a place where there are obvious features that can be used as a leading line, such as a road, railroad tracks, a corridor, a subway platform, a field with paths, tunnels, etc.
Leading lines have a very strong effect on their own, but it’s great if you include an object at the end of the line or along it. The person at the end of this tunnel is a great focal point, as all the lines in the image lead straight to him.
Leading line shots often look symmetrical and are pleasing to the eye of perfectionists and beyond.
If you want to create exactly symmetrical shots, activate the camera grid before shooting. This will help you keep track of all the elements in the frame that need to be aligned to achieve symmetry.
It is not necessary to use straight lines. Curved and S‑shaped lines, such as rivers and winding roads, also form leading lines. The spiral staircases look especially interesting from above.
The leading lines in the portrait can be hands and folds of clothing.
7. Fill the frame with your theme
A very simple way to declare an object is to fill the entire frame with it. So the viewer will definitely not have any doubts about what is the main character of your picture.
Don’t be afraid to approach small objects. This will allow you to capture them out of context, without distracting backgrounds, and you can capture close-ups of details that you might not otherwise be able to see.
Nothing if you didn’t include the whole object in the frame. For example, when photographing flowers, this works well because the unsightly background is removed and the viewer’s full attention is drawn to the beautiful and intricate details of the plant.
Frame fill is great for creating abstract images. Look for patterns or lines on any subject, large or small, and then frame your shot so that there is nothing in the frame but the subject itself. With this technique, even the simplest object can be turned into a breathtaking piece of abstract art.
In the photo above, the photographer captured the surface of the water and the reflection of the light. If you imagine that the sky, clouds and maybe even some people would get into the frame, I think the picture would not work, it would lose its influence. When the frame is filled with nothing but water, it draws attention to interesting light and textures.
Here is another example where all the focus is on interesting texture and light. Most likely, the photographer would not have received such a result if he decided to include the beach area, the sea and the horizon in this image.
So don’t forget to get closer, crop the shot and eliminate the excess.
8. Develop your own unique methods
Once you’ve mastered these composition techniques, you can start experimenting by breaking the “rules” and developing a style that’s unique to you. It would be boring if we all took the same photos using the same methods.
However, remember the basic rules of composition. Rules are made to be broken, but you can’t break rules if you don’t know them.
Before you take a picture, ask yourself, “What is my main subject and what can I do to make it stand out and draw the viewer’s attention to that subject?”
Another popular way to draw attention to a subject is to center the subject at the bottom of the frame.
And when we place the subject in the center of the frame, we feel balance and harmony.
When taking these shots, there is no doubt about where the focus is, even with a bright background.
The beauty of this technique is that it always works. Basically, you are recreating the same image over and over again. Just use a new object each time and get a new image.
Even if viewed as acting within a comfort zone, it evokes creative thinking anyway. You will be looking for new combinations and different items to create a new look.
So from now on, even when doing the most boring garden work, you will have a great opportunity to create an interesting look with a strong focus!
Experiment, try new compositions, shoot from different angles, and soon you will create stunning photos with a clear semantic center that will instantly grab the viewer’s attention.