Adjusting the elements of Balance, Unity, Movement, Proportion and Emphasis will always make a composition better. In my September blog I talked about Balance.
Now let's look at Proportion -which has two parts. One is the ratio of length and width of your picture space, and two is the size and placement of your elements within that picture space.
Recently one of my students asked me why they could not simply paint directly from a photograph. The simple answer is that no photograph is perfect compositionally.
The photo to the left looks like it could make a good painting just as it is. Let's look at some different possibilities.
In each of the following images I changed only the proportions of the picture space, which changed the focus of the elements within the picture space.
The focus here is on the two figures instead of the landscape.
Here, the beach and the water are the focal points.
The vast sky predominates here, placing the figures off center.
Eliminating most of the landscape places the focus strongly on the figures.
Focusing on the wet sand and placing the figures in the upper corner of the picture space, creates yet another composition.
Here the landscape and figures command equal attention.
Here, the figures command all of the attention.
Moving the figures and making them smaller within the picture space emphasis the landscape and the depth of the picture space.
A horizontal, panoramic format offers a completely different look and feel.
Is the original composition the best? Artists are simply trying to communicate something important to the viewer. Some artists may feel that the vast landscape is important, and some may feel that the figures are what makes the painting. Study proportion. You may be surprised at all the possibilities available to you within one single photograph.