by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2005
While there are literally dozens of books and instructional DVDs on the shelves for the nuts and bolts of digital imaging technique, there is a distinct lack of advice on composition and design. In the world of computer-generated "image files" there tends to be a difference between graphic design and photocomposition. The former is generally the province of page layout programs often incorporating words, illustrations, and diagrams. The latter is, self-evidently, the positioning of elements of the subject at the moment of exposure. These two concepts collide in wedding album page design. Now we have what is predominantly an image (albeit often a composite image) with few words, no diagrams and very few (if any) illustrations. It is however a "page" design; it is placed as a page and viewed as a book. This brings with it the disciplines of story-telling, page to page harmony of both style and colour and the constraints of making all composites fit within exactly the same shape format. Contrast this to a forma<
wall portrait or image. This can be of any shape of the creator's choosing, if you want a letterbox landscape you can have, if you want an oval, swept format you can have that also. The shape is completely unconstrained.
One of the problems of composition is that many observers know instinctively what is right, but have difficulty in expressing why they feel that that the shapes and structure in front of them "works". This is a dilemma for those of us who attempt to either teach or write about the subject. Rules are formulated and then invariably broken by skilled practitioners. However there are a number of "givens" which are worth bearing in mind when you design a page.
1. String colours are more dominant, look larger and are more forward in a composition. Hence • Blues are recessive, reds are forward, that is why blues are so frequently use as backdrops to pages. • Monochromes are more recessive than colour; they attract less attention - again useful as back drops. • Out of focus and/or indistinct features are recessive - useful as back drops
2. Images or features near the edge of a page create tension.
3. For western eyes, pictures read from left to right.
4. People arranged looking into a composition are more in harmony with the page than people looking out. A bride or groom looking away from their new spouse creates all manner of hidden meaning!
5. The "Rule of Thirds" applies to page design in much the same way as to photo/painting composition. This is also true of the other variants such as Da Vinci's Golden Mean. See Mark Laurie's thoughts on this topic in this issue.
6. To achieve harmony through the whole album, pick and stick to a theme. The theme can be:
• Colour • Shades or tints of the same colour • Constant motifs (eg all back drops are of the flowers)
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