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.
Line Of Curvature. One of the easiest forms of composition for the beginner to handle is the one based upon the letter S, or upon the more angular form of the letter Z. Among artists this line is known as "Hogarth's Line of Beauty." It is shown in Illustration No. 36. A common example of this line is to be found in Nature by the form of a woman's back; if two were joined back to back they would produce the beautiful curve of a mouth. Horizontally the line becomes a very serviceable one in landscape. (See Illustration No. 37.)
Circular Form Of Composition. The circular or oval forms of composition lend themselves very naturally to groups of shrubbery and all still life subjects. Curved lines of all descriptions are to be found everywhere in Nature, from the branches of the elm to the winding banks of a stream. (See Illustration No. 38.)
Atmosphere. The amount of distance or relief that is expressed in a picture is termed "atmosphere." In photography we are reproducing round subjects, as well as objects situated at varying distances from the camera, and placing them on a flat surface. In order to hold true to Nature in our reproduction it is necessary to secure as much roundness or relief, or, properly speaking, "atmosphere" in the picture as possible. (See Study No. 9, "Bridge," by J. H. Field. Page 91.)
244. You must first have a perfect understanding of the balance of a picture before you will be able to proceed further, and if, by this time, you are not thoroughly familiar with the principles of the steelyard, go back and read again, very carefully. Paragraphs 218 to 225.
Horizon Line. In summing up what we have now covered, regarding balance and composition, four important principles present themselves. The first one deals with the relative amount of sky and landscape to be included in the field of view. Therefore, the FIRST rule is: Never allow the horizon to bisect the picture. If the horizon cuts the picture into two halves the eye at once resents the error of assigning equal areas to those two primary factors.
Illustration No. 37 - See Paragraph No. 241.
Illustration No. 38 - See Paragraph No. 242.
246. SECOND: The highest point in the landscape should never coincide with the center of the picture's width, but should fall either to one side or the other.
247. THIRD: Such subject or subjects as we may wish to include in the foreground, whether they be figures or inanimate objects, must neither occupy the center, nor approach too closely to either side, nor to the lower limit of the picture.
248. FOURTH: Should the object or objects be of conspicuous size, they should find a background in the more distant landscape masses, rather than in the sky.
249. In order that we may impress upon and give you a clearer idea of these rules, let us take as an example a country road, with a farmer's wagon and team. Should we place the camera in the center of the road the wagon would be brought into the forbidden central position, while the road itself would divide the picture into two equal proportions. A very undesirable symmetry would thus be created in the main divisions of the picture. To obtain the proper result you should place the camera to one side of the road, and upon so doing you will be able to appreciate at once the value of the diagonal course the road takes, and a little careful maneuvering will bring the wagon into the desired position.
250. Hence, it is very evident that actual picture-making by photography demands that you should act deliberately. There must be no hasty "snap-shotting," but a studied system of trial and rejection should be employed.