Placing a key element in-frame is not always cut and dried. You may be determined to use the Rule of Thirds to place a strong graphical element. You may also be faced with the proposition of deciding just how that element should interact with the Rule. Take the case of my recent Prism and Rainbow work: The image is about light (to me at least). The anchor of the scene, the prism, is large, dominating and triangular. To take advantage of the diagonals and their aid to the overall composition of the image I decided the prism (seen from above) needs to be off-set to the upper-right rule of thirds position. But, which part of the triangle to place upon the vertices?
It makes sense to start with the middle… ‘the middle of a triangle’ you say? ‘Where’s that?’ Above is an approximation of the prism’s middle places in upper-right power point. The rainbow diagonal is maintained out the lower-left corner. This is probably the most common go-to placement. It puts the line of symmetry for the prism along the right-hand rule.
Moving the triangle around so that the lower-left corner intersects the power point yields this image. Again, we’ve been careful to keep the rainbow diagonal on the corner. This composition is a little more about the light rays and less about the prism facilitating them. If that is the story you are trying to tell, perhaps this composition is better suited.
Putting the lower right corner of the triangle on the power point really throws things out of whack. The image becomes top-heavy and gangly as the ‘weight’ of the prism moves towards center. By using this anchoring we are actually defeating the offsetting power of the Rule of Thirds.
One last corner to try: the top corner. Here the top corner is aligned with the upper-right power point. This image becomes center-weighted and right-heavy. The prism becomes more prominent and the beams less so. If this is your story, great! If not, well, a different placement is order.
Ultimately, you have to decide (as I’ve stated many times) “what is my story” and then compose (crop) to strengthen that story. The two obviously more powerful positions are the top two and I happen to prefer the second (the lower-left prism corner on the upper-right power point). It keeps the prism in frame-with adequate space-and allows the light rays to star in the image.
A triangular shape is an easy exercise but when the anchor is a horse, or a jellyfish or even a banana, the thought process is slightly more arduous.
Think about the shapes of your subject and any complimentary anchors as you place elements along compositional guides. You may have to try them all to properly anchor your scene.
Rikk Flohr © 2013