Avoid the Middle or Embrace It
Putting the image in the middle is something that comes naturally for many of us and it is especially true for beginning photographers. It’s boring because the viewer goes right to the subject without looking at anything else; missing out on the story you’re trying to tell.
A simple and sometimes over taught technique utilized to prevent using the middle excessively is to use an interception point or golden point on the “rule of thirds” grid. Because this method is commonly applied, heavily used and encouraged you have to be careful as it has a great potential to be equally as boring and overused.
Despite what we’ve been told and taught, centering the subject can actually be the best solution for good composition among certain subjects such as landscapes with reflections and subjects that are symmetrical. This is usually most effective when the subject is supported in the entire photograph allowing the viewer to see everything within the frame.
The use of centering the subject is also very effective when shooting portraits. It is a very honest, simplistic and a formal technique that’s about as basic as it gets for composition. Many times, especially in portraiture it works best centered and it just looks better in the middle.
Most of the time not putting the subject in the middle forces the viewer’s eyes to follow the composition to the subject. All the objects or elements in the photograph will be better appreciated which will make your image more pleasurable to view. Instead of always going to the “rule of thirds” try moving the subject off center until you get a sense of good visual balance.
When photographing landscapes a common mistake is to always put the horizon line in the center. Choose which is most interesting, the sky or the foreground and move the horizon up or down to emphasize what is the most interesting. Raising the horizon line will showcase a great foreground and lowering it will call attention to an amazing sky.
Another technique used to avoid over using the middle, is to use the outer focus points in the viewfinder on your subject while composing the photograph. This will force the subject away from the middle. At the very least half press the shutter button on the subject with the center focus point, then recompose and capture your image.
Maybe using the middle sometimes works best but you’ll find most times that it just doesn’t. Moving the subject around in the frame to find a good visual balance in your composition instead of using the viewfinder like a gun sight will result in a more pleasing photograph, more times than not.
Centering the Dominant Eye
Placing the dominant eye at the center of your photograph will often infer or give the viewer a feeling that the subject is looking back at them or is following them. It is just another technique that can add power to your composition.
I hope you enjoyed this article on avoiding the middle and when to embrace it, please feel free to leave a comment. Stay tuned for my next installment on Backgrounds.
Until then, happy shooting!