Like many boys, I was always attracted to the idea of heroes and villains. From Superman to Spiderman, I loved stories where we all knew that no matter what happened, all eyes would eventually turn to the hero, who would save the day.
As I was thinking about composition, I was again drawn to the hero concept. In every photo, you ought to be thinking about how you can create the hero of your shot.
In simple composition terms, every photo needs a hero. There should be one point in the picture that you decide is most important and where you direct all eyes.
In a hero story, there is always a villain -- it's the person that the hero must vanquish. The villain looks like he might steal the thunder, but the hero always wins in the end.
In your photo, anything that draws attention away from your hero is a potential villain. All eyes go to your hero, and anything in the frame that seeks to distract your viewer must be vanquished. You can do that using tools like selective focus, changing your angle, or cropping out the offending parts. As photographer, you vanquish the villain, so your hero gets the credit.
Hero at the Vietnam Wall
Photo by Alex Wong.I love the way Alex Wong created a hero in this shot. Alex is a member of our Photo Mentoring Club and submitted this photo for an assignment.
If you've ever tried to take a photo down at the Vietnam Veterans Wall, you know that your biggest enemy is usually the swarms of people. It's hard to create a hero shot when so many people vie for your attention. For instance check out the first photo in my post Why my picture sucks.
Alex did the opposite. He found a single person and used cropping and selective focus to make her shine. It doesn't hurt that he captured incredible light as well. Everything in the frame works to drive us straight to her and wonder about her story. She's our hero.
We can't begin any composition exercise without a discussion about having a clear subject. If you don't have a clear, unmistakable subject, it really won't matter what other compositional technique you use.
For our first challenge, let's use the hero analogy to work on having clear unmistakable subjects. Take a photo where you create a hero, literally or figuratively. Your hero can be a person, place or thing. Your hero must be unmistakable. Your photo must be free of any villainous distractions.
A few tips
One is the magic number. You can have a secondary or complementary subject, but it ought to be clear which one is most important.
The easiest way to make your hero shine is to fill the frame. Get close. Make your hero take up most of your real estate.
Use the rule of thirds to take your hero out of the center of the frame. Put the hero where the Tic Tac Toe lines intersect.
The point of this exercise is to make your hero dramatic. The fewer things you have in the frame, the more impact your photo will create.
Share your images with us
Once you have a great hero photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr.
I'm anxious to see what you create.
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