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Chapter 1. Pre-Maya: A Primer > Image Composition

Image Composition

A key part of framing your shots is image composition—the placement of the subject and its surroundings within the image's rectangular frame. Another element of composition is how you use color and contrast to direct the viewer's eye. Areas of similar colors, or similar brightness, with low contrast are de-emphasized in relation to other areas of the composition.

Brightness and Contrast

In general, you want your images to run the gamut from very white to very black, but you might choose a washed-out (the darkest dark is medium gray) or underexposed (the brightest bright is medium gray) look. However, usually you want to have some areas of your image remain quite dark and others more fully illuminated so that the image doesn't look dull or washed out. Contrast can be used to focus the viewer's attention. Low-contrast areas of a composition (for example, a large unadorned beige wall that dominates one part of the frame) are often more bland and uninteresting than high-contrast areas (such as a shiny red car with black tires). However, in general, you should avoid making your entire composition high contrast and busy; it can detract from the composition's focus and look harsh.


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