Seven composition techniques you can learn from “The Queen’s Gambit”

Nov 30, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Nov 30, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Watching movies and TV series is not only a great pastime activity on cold winter days but also a great way to find inspiration for your photography. Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has become insanely popular, and it’s one of the shows photographers definitely should check out. In this video, Martin Kaninsky analyzes the series from a photographer’s point of view, giving you seven composition rules you can learn from it.

The Queen’s Gambit has been advertised everywhere, so I decided to give it a go. I’ve watched two episodes so far, so I don’t know how the story will unfold… But I’ve been absolutely amazed by the cinematography and the mood of the show. You can hit the pause button pretty much whenever you want, and you’ll have a great photo on your TV or laptop screen. Here are the composition techniques used in this great show, and let me know if you’ve noticed them as well:

  1. Leading lines: leading lines are a powerful composition technique, leading the viewer’s eye to the main subject.
  2. Symmetry: even though symmetry is mostly used in architecture photography, you can also create it in a composition that involves people, and The Queen’s Gambit has lots of examples. The main character (Beth) is represented in both symmetrical and asymmetrical compositions within the show, and both have their purpose and impact.
  3. Patterns and rhythm: many scenes in the series have a lot of visual interest, especially in the background. For example the beds in the orphanage, the lockers in school, or those fantastic patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. All these create very dynamic scenes and dictate how our eyes move across the scene.
  4. Frames: framing is also one of the composition techniques we’re all familiar with. Like leading lines, framing also draws the viewer’s eyes straight to the main subject or subjects. The Queen’s Gambit has loads of examples of great framing that tells a story. Sometimes it uses traditional “frames” such as doors and windows, and sometimes they are less obvious.
  5. Negative space: lighting-wise, the series is pretty dark, which creates a lot of negative space. It tells a story, sets the mood, or tells the audience where to look. It’s used in the series, just like it often is in photography, to show the isolation or the loneliness of the character.
  6. Depth and layers: many scenes in the series show the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. This helps to establish the characters in the world around them and makes the setting more complete.
  7. Close-up portraits: during the most intense moments of the show, you’ll often see the characters filmed from up close. As the tension grows, they will get closer and closer, which intensifies the atmosphere even further.

Martin’s analysis reminded me of Geometric Shots, a fun concept by Raymond Thi exploring composition patterns in famous movies and TV shows. Like I said, watching movies and TV series with fantastic cinematography is always a good idea if you want to get inspired for your shots. So far, I’m really enjoying The Queen’s Gambit and its beautiful shots. I also loved Chernobyl, Money Heist, and The Handmaid’s Tale cinematography (and everything else).

Have you watched The Queen’s Gambit? Which movie or TV shows is your inspiration for photography?

[The Queen’s Gambit – the photographers perspective on framing and composition | about photography]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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2 responses to “Seven composition techniques you can learn from “The Queen’s Gambit””

  1. Fernando Rueda Avatar
    Fernando Rueda

    What a great article, nothing better that learn while we enjoy a great movie (or serie in this case) Have you seen Lazzaro Felice (Netflix)? I liked so much, its story, script and the way they use color and composition!

    1. Dunja Djudjic Avatar
      Dunja Djudjic

      Thanks! I haven’t seen it, but I’ll give it a go after I finish The Queen’s Gambit :)