Several Quick Tips for Creating Better Cinematic Compositions
Want to take your composition game to the next level? Then check out this video.
As cinematographers, the name of the game is getting the shot. If you're working in the commercial or narrative sphere, then you have a lot more time to set up your compositions, lighting, and everything else than a DP working in, say, documentary filmmaking—however, the struggle is still the same either way: you have to find a way to capture certain elements within a frame so that your composition is both an aesthetic and narrative success.
In this video from YouTube channel Advancing Your Photography, several photographers, including Chase Jarvis, Bob Holmes, Chris Burkard, and Marc Silber, offer up some extremely valuable insight that will hopefully help you on the road to shooting better compositions.
Even though this advice is geared more toward photographers, it translates well to filmmaking. Here are a few of our favorite takeaways from the video:
- Look at the scene without a camera: Put your camera down and look at your surroundings. It's important to get a fresh view of your scene without your eyes being glued to your monitor or viewfinder, because you'll be able to take more of it in.
- Sometimes simplicity is best: It's easy to go overboard with composition, but sometimes the simplest aesthetic choice is the best. If you're shooting a doc in a busy outdoor market, and there are people everywhere and motorcycles and cars zipping by, maybe capturing a subject simply standing at an intersection or looking off into the distance is the shot that makes your scene great.
- Be aware of every single thing that appears in the frame: As Bob Holmes says, it's your fault if there's something in the frame that shouldn't be there. So, to avoid this, pay close attention to what's sneaking into your foreground and background.
- Look at the world from your subject's POV: You're looking through your camera for stuff to capture, but sometimes it takes you putting yourself in your subject's shoes to see how they see the world.
- Do something unusual: Be weird. Get crazy. Do something you've never done before with composition. Why not?
- Framing is key: Of course it is, but the point here is to know many different compositional techniques that will help you get the images you want.
- Focus on the eyes: It's true, eyes are windows to the soul, and they're also extremely important in filmmaking. Focusing on your subject's eyes will ramp up the emotional intensity in a scene quickly and effectively.
- Use geometry: Isn't everything a shape? Yes! And those shapes can help you create beautiful imagery. There are many ways to use geometry to do this, whether it's through the golden ratio, the Rule of Thirds, or some other amazing thing that I don't know about because I barely passed geometry in high school. (I was more of an algebra gal.)
What are some other tips for creating better compositions? Let us know down in the comments.