Off Centre Framing
Knowing how to use off centre framing is an important aspect of composition. Most subjects benefit from this type of placement, it tends to be more interesting and visually appealing. Why is that? Well, it encourages your eye to wander around the image and explore all of it, not just one object stuck in the middle of the frame.
Of course, sometimes it’s appropriate to centre your shot. I did that in the Pink photograph because I wanted to emphasize the symmetry of the flower. See Fill the Frame for more details.
Having the main subject on the right seem to suit the eye best, but it works in either case. Artists have known about this principle for centuries and used it to create dynamic, engaging paintings. No wonder that photographers use it too, since photography is just another type of artwork. So, how to channel your inner creativity?
Rule of Thirds
Most modern cameras and editing software have grids that can help you decide where best to place your main subject, this can be a useful guide especially when you are starting out. The most common one is the “Rule of Thirds”. This means dividing your image into three equal parts both horizontally and vertically. Theoretically, you should place your subject where the dividing lines intersect. You may also come across “The Golden Ratio”, which is similar, but more fluid and artistic in my opinion. It’s available as a cropping grid choice in most good editing software.
I’m never one for following rules, so if my images match these criteria, it’s often just a coincidence. Sometimes, if I’m a bit unsure about an image, I might put use The Golden Ratio to see if it helps. And that’s the whole point really, you get these tools to work for you and not the other way round.
It can be interesting to put your subject right at the edge of your image. This type of off centre framing will add edginess to your picture, but you need to have a reason for doing it. For example, in “The Stolen Child” image, I placed the statue right at the edge because I wanted to show her looking into a whole world of despair. You can see this picture in my Negative Space post.
My takeaway?Know the rules so you can break them.
The picture above is a street shot, with the kissing couple to the right of the frame and the woman shielding her eyes to the left. I hope this leads your eyes around the image and stirs your imagination. Isn’t that what Art is all about?
More Off Centre Framing Examples.
Into the Fog
The farmer is to the right of the frame, past the Rule of Thirds, but does it matter? The point is, he’s off centre so we can focus on the whole story, a shepherd following his flock. I shot this in the wilds of Co. Wicklow, you really do see scenes like this in Ireland.
The View Beyond
Here, I wanted to show Woman in her modern existence. It’s another street shot. Bricks and cobblestones may have replaced cave walls, but has anything changed really? Is the meaning of life any clearer today? She is placed to the side of the image so that we can see her in the context of her environment, Dublin city centre.
Another image about what it means to be human. We all suffer sometimes and modern life, with all its’ demands, can add to that. The man is placed on the edge of the image, facing towards the busy passers-by, but alone. If I had put him in the centre, I’d have missed the story I was trying to tell.
Another off centre composition, the bed and the door are at either edge of the frame, but each is connected. The light from the door is shining into the past, at least that’s how I saw it.
Here’s one with the main subject to the left, just to show how off centre framing can work from either angle. This was a street shot, so it wouldn’t be right to “flip” it just to suit a rule.
A straightforward off centre composition, one which I hope adds interest to the main subject. I love the ethereal quality of poppies and that was my story here.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d be delighted to hear from you.
Most of these images can be viewed on Flickr.