Breaking rules of composition is a statement.  I mean that it all start with you knowing these rules intimately and for a specific reason you decide to go against these rule to tell something more important.  You want to draw the viewer to something important.

It is generally not a great idea to cut body part of somebody.  There is place where it is ok to do so and other places where you should avoid doing it.  For example cutting fingers is a very bad idea.  For a headshot like this one, cutting the top of the head is not something recommended.

Breaking the rules of composition:

This man has such character.  He is not that old and his face already show such wisdom.  I can’t imagine how nice he will be when growing older.  When composing this picture, there were very important aspects of this pictures that I wanted to keep:

  • I wanted his wisdom to fill the frame as much as possible.  I want my audience to feel all his personal history.
  • At this time, he was interacting with a customer at a stand in a market in Granada, Nicaragua.  I wanted to keep this interaction by leaving space in front of his eyes.

This led me to this composition where we don’t see all his hair, which is normally not a great idea to cut the top of the head.  This being said, all fashion magazines are doing so!

For you to appreciate my other option, here is another composition from the same picture:

In this second iteration, I chose a black and white conversion.  There are multiples advantages to black and white.  Color could be distracting.  In the previous picture, the bright colors on each side of my old man are distracting.  I use a local adjustment brush to tone down contrast and cut saturation; however, this is still distracting.  In black and white the background is less distracting.

Following the rules of compositions:

Rules of compositions: Breaking the rules

Old man wisdom in Granada Nicaragua

In my opinion, my old man show less wisdom in this black and white rendition than in the previous one.

A few questions for you all:

  • Which rendition show better the wisdom of the old man?
  • Do you prefer the landscape shot or the portrait one?
  • Does the top of the head missing in the first shot bothers you?

Thanks a million for your help and have a great 2013.