Composition: Making Your Video Look Right

People often ask us why their own personal videos don’t look as good as they were hoping. Of course, there are a number of factors that make a professional video look great. There is no real reason, however, why your own video cannot look good as well. We want to help, and for this we have decided to share with you some practical tips that will make your own photos and videos look great as well. We begin with this article by addressing the importance of composition.

Why Start With Composition?

There is so much that we could say about taking good photos or putting together a good video. So, why start with composition? The reason is simple. Most consumer cameras today can produce a good quality image even on automatic settings. However, no camera will tell you how to frame your shot. You can have a perfectly exposed shot, but if you don’t frame it correctly, it will still not look right. Even a shot that has some problems with exposure, if framed correctly, will probably look better.

What Is Composition?

In essence, composition and framing are two synonymous terms. They indicate how you arrange your subject in the frame of the image. You have surely seen well exposed pictures in which the head of the subject is partly cut off, or the main subject appears to be tiny and insignificant. Generally, this is due to composition or framing problems. The way we arrange the subject in the image will make a great deal of difference in the way the photo or the video will look.

Once you are used the the essential rules of composition, and you feel artistic, you may experiment with various ways of framing the same shot in order to obtain a different result. If you move the subject in a certain way, you will give more importance to the background. Move it in another position in the frame, and the background will no longer draw your attention. But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves….

Basic Rules of Composition

In all things people tend to have different opinions, and the art of composition is no exception. However, there are some rules that have stood the test of time, and continue to make a great difference in the quality of an image. One of them is the well known “rule of thirds.” This rule basically points out how your eye will scan the image, and which zones will receive greater attention. In order to understand this simple but effective composition rule, look at the image here below.

Rule of Thirds

You notice that we have divided the frame (a typical 16×9 video frame) in three horizontal and three vertical zones. Each of the vertical and horizontal lines indicate a third of the image. We refer to them as strong lines. This is because your eye will concentrate primarily on whatever is located along these lines. The dots mark the points in which the strong lines intersect. These points are extremely important, because they are the points where your eyes will concentrate the most.

Let’s Look at an Example

So, generally speaking, you will want to place your subject along those lines, with the most important details in the areas of the strong points (the intersections of the strong lines). Now, compare the two images here below. Which of them looks better?

Composition Sample

Have you noticed? The image that seems to look better is the one that follows the “rule of thirds” in its composition. Look at the same two images with the “thirds” marked and see why.

COmposition Sample with Thirds

In image 1 the composition follows what many beginners like to see: the main subject nicely put in the center. However, this does not quite look right. In image 2, instead, the composition follows the rule of thirds and places the main subject on a strong line and in a strong point. Notice also that the horizon has ben moved to a strong line, fitting the bottom third. This gives more prominence to the sky, communicating the feeling of a nice day.

We hope you have found this tip useful, and that you will enjoy practicing this simple but powerful rule.


See also: Our Services  –  Video SamplesExposure: Using the Zone System