Today, we are embarking on a weekly photographic adventure. Between now and the end of the year I plan to publish a weekly challenge or tutorial that I have found of value when learning photography.

Whether you are an old grizzled film shooter or just picking up the camera for the first time, learning the basics of composition cam take your photography from the snapshot level to fine art level. In coming weeks we will cover the rule of thirds, foreground background importance and much more, for this week,  there is one exercise that helped me immensely when  I was starting out, and one I still regularly use to keep my composition chops up. I like giving myself a specific challenge  during a photo outing. In the coming weeks I will discuss some of the challenges that I use to not only keep myself sharp compositionally, nut also aid me to see a scene better before I start shooting it.

The aspect ratio most cameras capture images in is 2:3. This in regular speak will give you an image that is 1/3 wider than it is tall. Consider 8 by 12 inches as an example. Generally most people shoot and compose for the aspect they see in the camera then crop to a standard size like 8 by 10.  The next time  your looking for a challenge consider shooting for a square or 1:1 ratio. Its an interesting and challenging consideration when your composing your shot. You will need to pre-visualize what the shot will look like in a square crop. Some cameras offer an option to change the aspect ratio don’t be tempted to use these as they are a bit of a cheat. The challenges here are to center your  subject matter or still follow the rule of thirds guidelines (if you are not familiar with the rule of thirds don’t worry we will cover that in coming weeks or a simple google search will give some quick insight. ). In a square composition, symmetry is strong because all of the edges of the image are equal length, and a rule of thirds shot can look a bit off. Try composing for an off-center subject and centered symmetrical subject shots. The use of leading lines and symmetrical background objects can lead to a very successful square cropped image. If you use Lightroom to edit and categorize your images you can find a 1:1 crop option in the crop menu by hitting R or in photoshop you can use the crop tool and set the options in the top bar to something like a 8 X 8.  After you shoot, crop and finalize your images and then take a look at them with a critical eye to see which composition worked and which didn’t. Look at your subject matter and decide if you like images with the subject centered or not. Another interesting project is to revisit some old shots and try them in a square composition. Many times I have returned to a shot I was not happy with the composition on the first critique, but ended up being a favorite when experimenting with a square or even elongated crop ratio.

Jamaica 2013
Jamaica 2013