Intentional Obstruction – Unordinary Composition


Typical photographs are free of obstruction with all elements of composition supporting the main subject of interest, generally leading the viewers eyes right to it.  Intentional obstruction is exactly what it sounds like, you photograph the scene with an obstruction in the foreground.  It could be the silhouette of a person, grass like in the photo above, or even a large object separating the frame (photo below).  I’m certain there is a rule or two telling you to never separate a scene down the center with an object but rules are made to be broken and that’s what makes photography so interesting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis photograph (above) uses the board in the center to separate the frame in half and accentuate the symmetry of the two rocks on each side, one black and the other white.  The two separate sides can evoke very different feelings in the viewer (think good and evil) as well as the direction of the board in the center of the scene.

The use of vertical lines (like the board above) in photography convey a feeling of power, strength, and growth to the viewer.  If you’d like to learn more about lines and how to use them in your photography check out my article Making a Great Photograph Using Lines.


Intentional obstruction is one of my favorite techniques to use when I’m photographing something that would be otherwise bland.  If you took all three of these photographs and eliminated the obstructions the photographs would look dull and uninteresting, there would be nothing to catch the viewer’s attention.  Typically you would only use this type of composition in landscape photography, blocking people out of their portrait with an obstruction because they are dull and uninteresting is funny rude (seems obvious).

There are hundreds if not thousands of different ways you can enhance the composition of a photograph, the style of composition you use may be the only thing that separates you from the 4, 734 other people who took the same photograph of that mountain you visited at some park last summer.  Spend some time getting familiar with all the different composition styles that you like and practice them regularly.  Incorporate different compositional techniques into the same photograph and sort out your favorite when you get home and process them.

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