Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Square composition: album cover inspiration

Album covers can be a great source of inspiration for composing square photos. I have used them before to show how strong diagonal lines create powerful images. Here, I want to do a quick and basic look at a few ways to slice a square:

1. the pyramid

This goes back to the strong diagonal lines method. Think of creating a pyramid or triangle with the square and you've got an eye-catching shape.

2. The diagonal slice

This is basically a variation on the triangle (note the triangle made by her arms). The difference between the pyramid and the diagonal slice (I'm totally making up these terms, btw) is that the former occupies the center and the latter cuts the square into two triangles with one diagonal line. In the Belle & Sebastian cover, you can imagine a line extending from the upper right corner (her head) down through her arm toward the lower left corner. The other "triangle" provides space for text, but the photo would be equally well balanced without it.

3. Dead center

A strong composition for a portrait is to place the subject dead center in the square. The eyeline is typically in the top third of the square. In the above image, the nose is pretty much dead center.

4. The horizontal split

Hiroshi Sugimoto's beautiful seascape was used for a U2 album cover. You may be used to seeing photos that give the sky either 1/3 or 2/3 of the visual space, but in a square format, a 50-50 division creates a yin/yang sense of balance.

5. The vertical split

Same as above, but sliced vertically. Here, the boy is the line dividing the two halves.

6. Four quarters

You may be noticing by now that square composition like symmetry. In the Weezer cover, you get four even slices of the square topped off with a third of white space.

Same 4 quarters structure in the famous Beatles album cover, but in this case, the people occupy the lower half of the image.

Pay attention to square composition, divide it into shapes in your mind, and you will develop an eye for visually appealing crops.