How to Create Dynamic Compositions
One simple tip for how to make your designs, photos, and illustrations better.
I work with a lot of designers, cinematographers, photographers, and illustrators everyday on high-end commercial projects. From interns all the way up to senior artists who are experts at their craft, I’ve found that the reoccurring skill in all of the most talented artists is their understanding of how to use contrast in their compositions.
First off, when I refer to “contrast,” what I mean is: giving contrast to every visual component that makes up a single frame– value, weight, size, and color. By utilizing contrast, you’re able to control and define hierarchy, movement, and meaning.
To keep things simple and clearly illustrate what I mean, I’ve put together a few greyscale examples that show how adding contrast to your frames can drastically improve your compositions and effectiveness of your storytelling.
If you ever find yourself stuck with a boring composition, push the contrast in the value, weight, size, and color of your subjects. Start drastically, then pull it back. One formula I like to use often is:
- 1 really BIG object — usually the subject, and most important element in the frame.
- 1–2 medium sized objects — secondary elements to give meaning to the main object.
- Tons of very tiny objects — tertiary elements to give movement and additional context for the frame.
I hope these tips and examples help you create more interesting and dynamic compositions for your photos, designs, and illustrations. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the book “Framed Ink,” for additional composition tips for visual storytellers. If you’re seeking tips for making your typography skills better, check out the Typography Manual for free on the Blind website.
Update July 18, 2016: I had such a great response to this article that I decided to create a video to walk through a few of these samples, step by step. You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/z4HjltaEV2E
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About the Author
Follow him everywhere @matthewencina
For those of you who have to create concept visuals to communicate or sell your ideas, check out my Style Frames Course. I created this for those who want to design beautiful style frames that tell effective stories.