Professional lifestyle and creative photographer Steph McGlenchy has an eye for capturing the every day with ethereal beauty and simplicity. Using the Fujifilm X Series range of cameras, Steph prints her photos using our instax SHARE SP-3. In this article she tells us all about how to use the 'rule of thirds' photography composition for printing on SQUARE film.
When you are starting out with your photography or have travelled to a new place and can’t decide how to pick a composition, the rule of thirds is the perfect launch pad for honing our compositional skills. AND REMEMBER, when shooting digital, you can check back and see, test whether the framing of your composition has worked. It’s going to be a trial and error process so why not experiment until it all becomes more of an intuitive process.
When it comes to the square format, there is just simply less space to play with, making it easier to highlight the subject without any other distractions. Using the rule of thirds within the square composition transforms your photograph into an image, and can really help you convey a mood, or accentuate the nature of your subject.
Whether we are out in the world ensconcing ourselves in the wilds of nature, or observing within our own everyday lives and the objects around us, the composition of the square can help us to convey how being in this environment, how looking at these objects actually make us feel.
When you have black and white images, this is when the rule of thirds and the square composition of the Fujifilm SHARE SP-3 really excel. Devoid of the distraction of colour the eye focuses more on the shapes and composition of the image within the frame.
In a vast and open landscape like the moors in the UK, sometimes that sense of isolation, of raw barren nature can be best expressed in a cropped composition such as the square. With this image, the rocky outcrop (the image’s focal point) was given the bottom third of the image, the sky and the clouds above were given the remaining two thirds of the image.
Cropping the line out in the foreground and honing in on the rocky outcrop of the moor (in this case Dartmoor in Devon, UK), created a mood, one of isolation, giving the landscape somewhat of another worldly, other planet-type feel; a place seemingly unlivable, harsh and incongruous to human comfort.
There are times when, well, you just need to break the rules of the thirds and use the square composition to really emphasise the dominant nature of an object's shape. Take this gorgeous nautilus shell for example, it is visually tantalising, because the spiral draws your eye in, it creates depth.
Setting the shell right in the middle of the composition of a square is a total contrast to that of the shell’s cylindrical nature and therefore amplifies its circular nature and allows your eye to move around the image more freely.
The use of the rule of thirds within the square can also help you break other traditional compositional rules. For example this swan, one of many who act as guardians of the lake at Hallstatt in Austria, seems a little lost in the original composition. There’s not enough space in front of the swan to tell where it’s going, and the beautiful ripples it leaves in its wake are kind of lost in the image.
But after giving the swan the SP-3 treatment, the rule of thirds allowed for the swan and its movement through the water to be accentuated. Traditionally, to convey movement it’s all about showing where the person or animal is going, yet with the swan, you only know it’s moving because of the ripples, so they became the prioritised element of the image.
It is possible to follow some of the ‘thirds’ rules and then also have a central figure. In my image of this solitary fellow atop the sea wall in Lyme Regis, the aim was to capture him in his own little private world.
By cropping to the square of the SP-3, I was able to use the rule of thirds to further accentuate him as being in his own world. Eliminating the distractions of the out of focus foreground sea wall and allowing for the governing two-thirds of the image to consist of the calm seafront behind him allowing me to capture his moment of solitude, peace and isolation.
The rule of thirds and a shallow depth of field also work hand-in-hand with the SP3’s square prints. My image above, of seaweed on fence wires at the beach, was captured using a shallow depth of field of F2. The billowing strands of seaweed at the top edge of the image (as well as the long dark straggly bit hanging down) are distracting to the eye, forcing it to dart between two focal points and leave the image looking rather unbalanced.
Cropping the image to allow the fence wire to travel diagonally from corner to corner allows the viewer to be drawn in, and this time, the rule of thirds comes into play with what is in focus (the central third of the image) and what falls in the background (the bottom and top thirds of the image). And the dreamy creamy tones of the SP-3’s print really helped amplify that beachy mood of the image.
I have found the instax SHARE SP-3 a helpful tool to keep my mind focused on the composition when I am venturing out into the landscapes, or shooting back in my studio. Being able to print images in this way allows you to see what you could be focusing more on in the field (in terms of composition) and what you feel you could improve on. I’ll definitely be packing it my kit bag when I got out on shoots, because sometimes nothing beats having a physical image in your hand.