This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Value Of Location Of Units Within The Picture Space. You must bear in mind that every picture is composed of a collection of units or items, and that every unit has a given value and the value of that unit depends upon its attraction (its attraction varying as to its placement - whether near or far from the center of the picture). A unit near the edge is more attractive and has more weight than one at the center. This is important.
236. As just explained, every part of the picture space has some attraction. If a unit is placed in a dark blank space its weight of attraction will be greater than if it is placed among other units; and, in like manner, a black unit on white or a white on black has much more attraction than the same unit on a gray tint. The value of all units depends upon the size of the unit, as well as upon the size of space contrasting with the unit. A unit in the distance has much greater weight than a unit in the foreground. (See Study No. 13, "Calling the Ferryman," by Mrs. Nancy Cones.) Where a number of units are situated closely together they may be considered as one unit, the center of attraction being the point on which they balance other units in the picture. (See Page 130.)
Masses Of Light And Shade. A section of a picture having one tone, and being sufficiently set apart from other portions as to attract a certain amount of attention, either great or little, is termed a mass. Masses of equal size, occupying similar picture space equal one another, and therefore, care must be exercised to avoid placing them as shown in Illustration No. 33. A principal mass only acquires its importance by contrast with a smaller one. See Illustration No. 34, which shows the same subject with enough weight added to the left to properly balance the picture space.
Forms Of Composition. There are three general
Illustration No. 35 forms of composition that the beginner should consider. The first and most important one is known as the triangular form; the second is the emblem of grace and movement, and is known as the "line of curvature;" and all composition arranged under this particular form has an arrangement of lines or masses according to what is known as "Hogarth's Line of Beauty." The third form is the circular or oval form of arrangement.
Triangular Form. To illustrate the first arrangement (the triangular), we divide the picture space by a diagonal, as shown in Illustration No. 35. To obtain proper balance the main object of importance should be placed in the lower division near the center of the picture, while in the lower corner of the upper triangle should be placed an object of secondary importance. The upper portion of the upper triangle may be occupied simply by the sky.
This principle is strongly exemplified in Study No. 8, "Day is Far Spent," by C. F. Clark. If a diagonal is drawn from the upper right-hand corner to the lower left-hand corner it will be observed that the lower triangle is practically filled with the subject of the picture. The lower part of the upper triangle contains a few trees, but the great majority of it is occupied by the sky. A picture of this kind is pleasing, and you should aim in every way possible to have your landscape pictures especially balanced in this manner, for
Illustration No. 36 if you will hold to this one principle until you have thoroughly mastered it you will have made an important step toward successful picture making. (See Page 71.)
240. The perfect triangular form of composition is rarely seen, for in most cases where the lines of the triangle are detected at first sight, other lines or points of interest appear with such strength as to destroy or modify, at least, the main construction of the triangular form.