Curves

Composition Techniques in Photography

Author: Ferenc Beleznay
Let’s say you have already selected a surface to shoot on, have all your subject matter picked out and you’re ready to start taking pictures. However, how you lay out and stage all the items in your frame can change the end result drastically and is of utmost importance!
This is why we will be talking about composition in this lesson, more specifically about composing using curves.

The smoothness and fluidness of a curve compared to a straight line gives the feeling of a dynamic landscape. If you line up your ingredients and props like little soldiers, the image will have an evident staged look to it. This can be great for products but can often take away from food photography, since natural beauty will always be more appetizing. You don’t want it to look like you carefully placed all your items into their spots (which we all do!) but to have a feeling that the items just naturally spilled out of your basket in a beautiful way. You are staging it not to look staged if that makes sense. This is where curves come into play, because they are very fluid yet still can create a strong compositional element to lead the viewer's eye through the picture.

 

Let’s start with the S-curve, a river in the landscape. I personally think this compositional technique is especially effective when shooting into your setup from the side, but you can certainly do a top down view as well. My focus was the margarita in this image with all the ingredients to make tacos creating the landscape around it. Notice the salt and piece of chips not following the curve? I’ve added those as part of the “spilling out of basket” look. It is more than fine for most of your bigger elements to follow your main curve, adding little bits and pieces outside of the curve to balance out the empty spaces.

 

Talking about empty spaces is a perfect way to lead into the C-curve. The letter C creates emptiness in the middle which you can use in different ways. You can use the C-curve as an element around your subject matter framed in the middle, like this taco below. The same way I have a preference to shoot into an S-Curve composition, I prefer to shoot a C-Curve composition top down.
 
If you are planning on overlaying some text, graphic elements or even a recipe onto the image in post production this is a great composition to create a backdrop for that.
 
Of course these are just suggestions and not golden rules to stage by! You can also combine some of these elements and make your own curve, like this spiral below or a continuing S-curve.
Hope you have fun with these beautiful shapes!