Basic Composition

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Composition plays a major role in subconsciously making an audience feel a certain way about an image. Composition is the placement of visual elements in a painting or a photograph. The definition of composition is ‘putting together’ and can apply to more or less any form of work deemed as art, from music, writing and photography, that is arranged or put together using conscious thought.

There are several different elements of which to place within a basic visual composition, this blog will look at some of these elements. Of course, all of these “rules” can be broken, but only if the composer knows why they are breaking them.


The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds


The frame is broken up into thirds vertically and horizontally. Placing the important elements of the shot in the areas where the lines cross each other will result in what is perceived as ‘good composition’. A characters eyes in a close up shot should line up within these lines with the eye closest to the camera within the area where the lines cross each other. When a landscape fills the frame the positioning of the horizon can determine the compelling nature of the frame. If it is centralised the eye is drawn away from the point of interest. When it is placed a third of the way down the screen the horizon becomes the point of interest.


Eye Line

Screen Shot 2012-04-28 at 02.43.54


The Eye Line refers to the level of the characters eyes in each shot and how they relate to the eye line of the same character in another shot. The characters eye level should always be level with the camera unless required for a specific effect (high angle/low angle shots). Using The Rule of Thirds, eye lines can be placed at the thirds position, a secondary focal point can then be placed at the diagonal opposite thirds position to provide a counterpoint.



Screen Shot 2012-04-28 at 10.43.44


There should not be anything distracting on unbalancing within the frame. The background must be clear of anything that should not be in frame. If one side of the frame is occupied then there should be something to balance out the other side. There should never be any pointless “dead space”, and should be filled with a characters eye line. Nothing in the background should cut through the character.





The focus of the image must always be on the most important narrative aspect of the scene. Any slight deviation in focus will be very noticeable on a large screen. What is in focus in the image is determined by the depth of field. Depth of field is the length of the horizontal distance from the camera that appears to be in focus.





Depth is a huge part of cinematic composition because real life is three dimensional but film is two dimensional. Films are always trying to create depth which makes the image more interesting and realistic. Creating depth in an image allows the viewer to become more immersed in and accepting of what they are seeing. There are a number of ways we can create depth: overlap, relative size, chiaroscuro and lines to name a few.


If you want to use depth and focus to create these kinds of images, you need the tools to do it. Arri Ultra Primes are some of the best lenses out there and can really add that cinematic feel to your productions, as can the legendary Arri Alexa Mini camera from Panny Hire.


Back To Blogs