Thursday, July 1, 2010

Images: Composition

This post is a continuation of a series on designing and delivering presentations.

Since images are so important to illustrating our work, then it's worth the time to compose them properly. You don't have to be a professional photographer or graphic artist to create striking images that convey exactly the information you want. 

There are lots of techniques dealing with composition, but one of the most effective and simplest to apply is the "rule of thirds".  Those of you who are amateur photographers have probably heard of this technique. It's derived from the Fibonnaci series or the "golden ratio", which many patterns in nature follow and that humans usually find aesthetically pleasing.

For our purposes, however, the rule of thirds provides a simple guideline for composing photographs in a pleasing fashion.  The way it works is illustrated with the photograph at left.  The grid divides the slide into thirds, and where the lines cross are called power points.  The woman's face is primarily occupying the right third of the image, and her eye is in one of the power positions. The photo is much more effective composed like this.

The next time you look at a magazine or watch a TV interview, notice how the camera does not center the subject, but instead follows the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds can be applied to virtually any image--either when you take the photo or when you crop it later. See more examples below.

In the example to the right--a landscape image--I composed it so that the major elements of sky/clouds, land, water, and mudflat were positioned in thirds.

In the photo to the left, I zoomed in and cropped the original photo so that I am in the left third of the image and my chin is at one of the power positions.

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