Learning photography composition from watching movies

I have always been a huge movie fan and I think that has played a great role in my growth as a photographer. Movies are a great source of inspiration, but also an enormous resource for learning compositional technics and use of lightning. All this compositional and lightning technics you can easily apply to you photography, because they are virtually the same!

Those of you who have already taken one of my photography workshops in Brussels know that I spend a lot of time teaching composition. There is a reason for that – knowledge and proper use of the photography compositional techniques are not only guaranteed to make your images more pleasing to the viewers eyes, but will also make them stand out from the rest.

Great image composition has the power to grab our attention, to focus it, to direct it, and create meaning. We know the greatest films and photographs employ those perfect types of compositions. So, why isn’t everybody using them?

Because most people are preoccupied with camera settings and tools, that there is just no space for anything else. And it takes time to properly study and master all these compositional technics..  

The good news? I am here to help with that 🙂 I have prepared and analysed a few samples from different movies that employ some of these important compositional technics for you to explore. Here we go!

You will notice that some photography composition technics are widely used in all the examples – like the Rule of thirds. This is no coincidence.

I will start with a few example from the movie Drive (2011, Ryan Gosling, Carrey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston). It is a great movie, perfectly filmed and lit. Highly recommended. 

Great use of the Rule of thirds and natural framing. Notice how the two of the intersections are lit to get your attention easier.  
Great use of the Rule of thirds and I love how three of the intersections are lit.
Again great use of the Rule of thirds and natural framing – you can see Ryan Gosling nicely framed by the door.
Great example of how to use the Rule of thirds. Notice how the main subject is at the brightest part of the image?
Again great use of the Rule of thirds.
Another great scene with perfect use of natural framing and contrast between subject and background.

Another example for proper use of the Rule of thirds from another favourite of mine – Contact (1997, Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey).

Great use of the Rule of thirds and depth of field to show us the two subjects of the scene – Jodie Foster and the VLA (Very Large Array) in Mexico.

Next few examples are from the 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford. 

Amazing use of natural framing and contrast between subject and background! 
Symmetry and leading lines – notice the boat roof pointing at Martin Sheens head. 
Triangles are present, in one way or another, in almost everything we see – it’s just a case of distinguishing them and knowing what to do with them. This is a perfect example of how to create triangles with your subjects to improve the composition.
Another great use of the Rule of thirds.
Filling the frame with a pattern is another interesting compositional technic! 
As you see the Rule of thirds is widely used in the movies and a cornerstone of a good composition! 

The next few examples are from a great movie that all photography aficionados will love – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn).

Great use of leading lines! 
Symmetry in use instead of the Rule of thirds here. 
Proper use of Depth of field to separate the main subject from the busy background. Rule of thirds in use as well!
Rule of thirds
Rule of thirds
Creating triangles from your subjects – great way to perfect the composition.
Symmetry in use here – balancing the frame with the boat on one side and the group of people on the other.
Strong contrast between subject and background – great way to separate the main subject!
“Leading lines” are bringing the eyes of the viewers from the bottom of the frame right to our subject.

The last example is a well known scene of The Exorcist (1973, Max von Sydow and Ellen Burstyn).

Symmetrical composition and strong contrast between subject and background to show your subject better.  

Would you like to know more? Please consider attending my Photography Workshop in Brussels.