3 Composition Tips for Photo and Video

When it comes to creating better visual content such as video footage and VJ loops, it is not enough to master the software. It is also very important to learn about some composition fundamentals. In this short post, I will share with you some useful, easy and free tips that will allow you to create better videos, VJing loops, photos, etc.

#3 Dynamic Symmetry

When we hear the word symmetry, an image immediately comes to mind in which the elements are evenly distributed around the center. This mirror, reflective or bilateral symmetry is very popular, but it is not the only type of symmetry that exists. We like mirror symmetry because it transmits balance, but sometimes this symmetrical balance can generate boring and uninteresting visual content. This is when the so-called dynamic symmetry and its asymmetric balance comes into play. This type of symmetry is not as evident as the mirror one, but it fascinates us in an inexplicable way and it is a handy tool for creating better video footage and VJing loops.

In order to achieve this kind of symmetry, you just need to divide your canvas into two triangles by drawing a diagonal line (1). Then, just draw two new diagonal lines perpendicular to the main diagonal (2). Now your grid is ready. If you want, you can also flip the grid vertically (3), or overlap both (2 & 3). Now, just fit your objects inside the triangles and start getting better visual content (4).

Dynamic Symmetry Basics

This grid is also available inside the award-winning, open-source and free 3D software Blender. You just need to select a camera object and go to Viewport Display > Composition Guides, select Golden Triangle A or Golden Triangle B, and start creating great compositions for your visual content and video loops.

Composition Guides Inside Blender 3D

When you trace these diagonal lines you are creating equally proportional triangles and everything inside these will be more harmonious. In fact, if you draw some new straight lines, you will get a three by three grid, wait ... rule of thirds? Yes, the rule of thirds is related to the dynamic symmetry since the former is an approximation of the latter. The rule of thirds is a good guideline, but you have to take this rule with a grain of salt when working with other ratios other than 16:9. In a few words, it is not enough to simply divide the canvas into a three by three grid!


#2 Color Harmony

All colors hide a meaning, for example, we usually link blue to tranquility, green to nature, red to passion, yellow to joy, white to purity, brown to dirt, etc. These colors-meaning connections we make are determined by our culture, in fact if you were to try asking a western group about each person's favorite color in the group, you would see that the most voted color would be blue. However, if you made the same experiment in China the winner would be the color red.

We are able to get better video footage and VJ loops if we take advantage of the colors' ability to communicate different things depending on how we combine them. For example, blue and orange: creativity, brown and green: ecology, yellow and black: danger, red and black: aggressiveness, blue and dark gray: technology, fuchsia and black: eroticism, blue and white: confidence (it is not the case that many western insurers and banks use this combination).

In order to get better visual content, it is important to know the existing color harmonies. Try to internalize them and put them into practice when possible. The most important are the following:

Analogous Color Harmony

To achieve an analogous color harmony, we must choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

    Analogous Color Harmony Example

      Complementary Color Harmony

      It is the easiest color harmony to remember since we only have to combine a desired color with its opposite on the color wheel.

        Complementary Color Harmony Example

        Triadic Color Harmony

        To achieve this harmony we have to combine three colors that together form an equilateral triangle (triangle with three equal sides) on the color wheel.

          Triadic Color Harmony Example

          Split Complementary Color Harmony

          This color scheme is similar to the complementary one, but instead of using the opposite color, we use the adjacent colors to it. In this case, our three colors will form an isosceles triangle (triangles with two equal sides and one different side) on the color wheel.

            Split Complementary Color Harmony Example


            #1 Design Tips


            Use contrast to highlight the most important elements in your composition. Remember, contrast is not only related to the difference in luminance. You can achieve contrast through color (e.g. using a complementary color harmony), size (e.g. an element that stands out for its height), or movement (e.g. an object that stands out for its action).

            Contrast Pixabay Example


            When dealing with video footage and video loops, unless you have a specific intention in mind, it is always a good idea to keep certain consistency between the elements of the composition. In a few words, do not alter the color scheme, the font pairing, the graphic style, the animation style or the main concept halfway.

            Stay away from the margins

            We always need to leave some space between our elements and the canvas margins, otherwise our eyes will be focused on the peripheral objects and miss the central (important) stuff. This does not mean that the margins need to be empty, but they need to be used wisely; just for inspiration, the natural framing is a good reference of how we can do it.

            Natural Framing Example from Pixabay