Page 2 – Composition, Highlights and Shadows

Before the Shot: Composition

Composition means framing the subject in a certain way. While there are no hard rules in photography, you can use compositional rules as guidelines. You can use these rules to guide your viewer’s eye to a certain part of the photo, or create balance between the subject and background.

The most basic compositional rule is called Rule of Thirds. On your iPhone, go into Settings > Camera. You’ll see something called Grid, and you can switch it on. This overlays a grid of four lines to break up the photo into nine squares. The Rule of Thirds says to position the most important elements of the scene along these lines, or at the points where they cross.

For example: landscapes. If you want to make the sky more important, you can line up the horizon with the bottom line, and keep objects in the bottom three squares. To make features on the ground important, line up the horizon with the top line, and fill the middle and bottom squares with landscape features.

Using the rule of thirds in iPhone photos.

Lining up the sun using the grid.

After the Shot: Highlights & Shadows

After you take the photo, now it’s time to edit. The first area to focus on are highlights and shadows. Highlights are the bright areas where the light falls. Shadows are the dark parts with no light. You’ll want to balance highlights and shadows to create tonal contrast. A basic rule of thumb is to slightly decrease highlights, and slightly increase shadows.

When we look at photos, our eyes are naturally drawn first to the bright areas of the image.  You don’t want the highlights to be too bright though. This can lead to blown out highlights, which means that the highlights are so bright that they are essentially pure white. This doesn’t look good, and you lose any details in the bright areas.

At the same time, you can have shadows that are too deep, and they become pure black. Unless you’re doing this on purpose, like in low key photography, you’ll want to brighten up the shadows a bit. You can find tools for controlling highlights and shadows in the iPhone Photos app. Use the sliders to increase and decrease.

Low key iPhone photos use strong shadows.

Low key photography makes use of strong shadows.

Next: Color and Grain

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