Composition in Photography is a Political Decision

Bangalore. October, 2013
Bangalore. October, 2013. © Nishant Ratnakar
Bangalore. October, 2013. © Nishant Ratnakar

I’d like to share an important point with respect to composition in photography. This is from the learning and real life experiences, that I have had as a photojournalist and as a Visual Story-teller.

What I share below,  is based on the concept that as photographers we have a message or an idea to communicate in our photographs to a target audience . We are part of a Visual Communication process.

For most of us, when we embark on a self-learning curve in photography or attending the initial photography workshops, we are always taught of composition with an emphasis on Rule-of-Thirds. But composition is much more than any particular rule-of-thirds. The rule is one of the many guidelines for photography.

When we tell a story in a photograph or in make a statement through images, then the message is the heart and soul of  composition.

Composition is a political decision. What we decide to include in a rectangular frame is as important as what we decide to leave out(or crop). When we are composing/framing an image, we make that political decision of leaving behind many elements in a scene. We photograph a small sub-set of the world in front of us, and leave the rest of the universe behind. The sub-set should include those story-telling elements that effectively and unambiguously communicate your message to your target audience.

In the photograph that I shared above, I have isolated portions of two different quotes attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. And while I composed the shot, I waited till an important and anonymous element walked into my frame, and then I pressed the trigger.

I do not want to explicitly state my message in text here. I think it is obvious from the photograph above. I hope you got my message :).

FYI, the photograph was made on a Fujifilm x100s camera. I must say that it is quiet a stealthy camera to allow a street photographer to make images on the streets without getting noticed. I had recently used x100s to make travel photographs in Sri Lanka too.

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Nishant Ratnakar
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By Nishant Ratnakar

Nishant is a Bangalore, India based Wedding, Portrait & Editorial Photographer. He is available for assignments across India. He also conducts photography workshops and offers personal photography mentorship.

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