Understanding Single Point Photography – Composition Techniques

One of the most common types of composition used in photography consists of a single point of interest.  It is so basic that some photographers take it for granted; assuming basic is equivalent to simple and unimportant.  In actuality, a single point of interest can give you a chance to show your creativity as well as add interest to an otherwise plain photograph.  

However, photographs do not need to have any points of interest to be successful, because every photograph is judged by individuals whose tastes and knowledge regarding art and photography differ. That being said, it is important if you use a technique in a photograph, that you use it correctly, taking full advantage of it; particularly one as basic as single point photography.


Photo courtesy of: http://1x.com/photos/street/26266/

If you decide to use a single point of interest in your photograph there are some decisions you must make while planning out the images you intend to capture.  First, decide where the object should be in the frame of the photograph, making sure the object is justified in being in that position, and then consider the effect the positioning has on the photograph.   Consider the rule of thirds if your point of interest involves people.  By having the point of interest off center, in the first or last third of the frame, it gives you an opportunity to use other objects in the frame to add interest to the photograph.

Centering the single point of interest gives you equivalent margins surrounding the object, and it would behoove you to make this area as interesting as possible.  This position does not have to be boring if the composition of the photograph is set up correctly.  However, if the opportunity presents itself, place the object slightly off center as long as there is justification for the placement, such as a background that is of interest to the intended audience.  This simple shift in placement will add an incredible amount of drama to the photograph, immediately making it more interesting than a simple, center single point shot.

If you decide to place the object near the edge of the photograph, then be cautious about the message you intend to convey through the photograph.  The further off center the single point gets, the more unusual the photograph will appear.  Such a daring single point placement will bring about strong feelings in the audience, but overdoing this position will evoke feelings of boredom and make you seem uninspired.  This is the time when “less is more.”

Follow your instincts when deciding the exact position of the point of interest in the frame.  Specifically, your natural instinct will lead you to the most natural position for the object in the frame.  This feeling of natural placement is the one you want to follow, since incorrect or awkward placement of the object will feel either boring or imbalanced.   However, you can use the imbalanced feeling to your advantage if that is the message you want to convey through your photograph.  

If you are taking a vertical photograph that you want to feel unbalanced, placement of the model near the bottom of the picture will draw the eyes clear down the photo.  Photographs that have no horizon are particularly difficult for the audience to discern as straight or askew.  This will leave the audience with the feeling of unbalance, yet it will not be obvious as to why they feel such a way.  This is a powerful way to use single object placement to enhance the emotions evoked by the photograph.

In photographs, to qualify as a point of interest, the object has to be in contrast to the rest of the frame in size, color, shape or tone.  For example, the best and strongest color contrast is between black and white.  If a photo is taken in a dark environment, for example, the eye will be naturally drawn to the brightest areas of the frame, as well as the darkest areas of the frame, making the photograph appeal to the audience’s sense of curiosity because of the contrasts.

The point of this technique summary is to make photographers aware of the implications that placement has on a single point subject in a photograph.  In the end, it is a completely personal choice, as there are no hard and fast rules in the art of photography.  The above are merely suggestions to be used as a guide for photographing single point objects, so hopefully you will keep them in mind when composing your next photograph.