5 hints for better visual composition

Discover some handy tips for improving your visual composition.

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Alongside composition rules there are a number of handy little hints that can help you put those composition rules into practice and hopefully get them right! The composition rules like ‘Rule of thirds’ and ‘Balance’ and so on, can sometimes be difficult to implement, especially when you’re starting out trying to utilize them. By making use of these hints you’ll become more attuned to what works well as well as guard yourself against making terrible composition mistakes. We take a look at just 5 of those hints for getting better visual composition.

1. Study other art forms

Hopefully it goes without saying that observing the way other visualizers do things will help you improve. Why not take this one step further and start observing creatives in other art forms such as photographers, fine artists, sculptors, and directors. And as you observe other people’s work don’t just scan through hundreds of pictures, look at them critically and make notes on each one. Think about how the image makes you feel and what it is that creates that emotion in you. Consider what composition techniques they have used and why. Try to see if they’ve broken any composition rules to make a point.

The more you’re able to critically think about other people’s work the better equipped you will be to implement the same techniques, as well as evolve the techniques of others further. We’re all inspired by others and there’s nothing wrong with letting that influence your own work.

"We have so much to learn from every art form and we’ll do well to diligently study and critique other people’s work for the purpose of improving our own skills." © Clem Onojeghuo

2. Get your client on board early

If you’re working with paid clients then it will be absolutely vital to get your client on board with your vision as early as possible in the project. If you’re able to communicate what you’re trying to do and why you’re doing it, then they will have an opportunity to speak into that before it’s too late. And by doing this early on you also increase your chances of taking them with you along the creative journey. If your client is only thinking about the hard and fast features of the design then you might struggle to create visuals that really wow your client. Very few of us have the luxury to pick and choose our clients, but obviously if you do then pick those clients who share a similar vision to you. It’ll make for a much happier working relationship!

"Getting your client on board early will ensure you create a good looking composition in the end." © Thomas Drouault

3. Create concept sketches

I find that the temptation at the start of every project is to just crack on and get the model built. I love the buzz at the start of the project. The possibilities are endless and the creative juices are flowing, but it doesn’t take long to get bogged down in a project. Once you start getting a model into place and adding detail it can become very difficult to make any meaningful changes to it. This is a killer for creating good composition.

To make your life easier let me encourage you to create a set of concept sketches at the outset. These can just be simple line drawings in pencil but they communicate the direction you’re heading in and will help keep you in line with the vision you have. These sketches allow you to make comparisons between shapes, objects, lighting and the balance of how everything sits in your scene. Creating sketches like these will also help you communicate with your client if you have one.

"Concept sketches help create a quick visual vision of what you want your composition to look like." © Hasim Imran

4. Mirror your image

This might sound a bit odd but stick with me for a minute. When you’re working on a project it can be so easy to become too familiar with your work. We’ve all done this with essays where we’ve proofread it multiple times and then someone else reads it and spots a lot of errors. This is the beauty of a fresh pair of eyes. You can sometimes achieve this by taking a break from the project for a few hours or even a few days but an easier and sometimes more effective way of doing this is to just mirror your image in Photoshop. It’ll give you a whole new perspective on the image and help you see if the composition is working. It might also highlight some mistakes you’ve made in the image and give you ideas for how you can correct the composition.

"This simple trick will give you a fresh perspective on your work, even when you feel like you’ve been staring at it for days." © Eugene Triguba

5. Ask someone else

This is probably simultaneously one of the easiest things to do and the hardest thing to do. We’re artists aren’t we! We find it hard at times to show our work off to others, especially when it’s not a finished piece or if we have insecurities about our work. It is so important for us to get over these hurdles and to get in the healthy habit of showing our work to other people to get their thoughts and comments. These people can be other visualizers who know the trade but they could equally be people that have no experience of visualization or photography.

These people are likely to give a truly fresh perspective on how your average person will view the image. You can do this at several points during your project and it’ll make you a much better artist, assuming you take on board their comments!

"Get the input of a friend or colleague who hasn’t been working on the project. Their fresh set of eyes will help get your composition right." © Mimi Thian

Composing a conclusion!

Hopefully these five hints have been helpful. If you diligently put them into practice you should find yourself becoming an even better visualizer. I really want to commend hint one. Give yourself to this one week after week, exploring different art forms, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your own art work.

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