There are many, many different trends that have gained a significant amount of traction on the immensely popular social media platform. Some of these trends die out and some of them stay, and so far, it seems that centered compositions are here to stay.
As photographers, especially in classroom and workshop instruction, we learn about a wide variety of rules of composition. The rule of thirds is probably one of the more widely known rules, but if we were to look at virtually any textbook for photography, we would read about much more than just that one rule. My point is that there are many different ways to compose an image depending on your subject matter. So, why do so many of these incredibly popular social media accounts seem to feature very similar looks, feels, and compositions on their accounts? Below are just a couple random examples found from people that I follow on Instagram, but it wouldn't take much digging to find a multiplicity of other examples from other popular accounts.
Now, the answer here is definitely open to interpretation, and I'm sure that there are several reasons why these centered compositions are so popular. After looking at hundreds, possibly even thousands of images just like the two above, I noticed some similarities across them all. Not only do many of the shots feature their main subject in the center of the frame, but the shots are all very elemental in the way that they include so much of a wide scene surrounding their subjects. The subject might be a person, a cabin, a road, or a mountain peak, but the decision to place the subject in the exact center between left and right seems to be quite common indeed.
Instagram is designed for scrolling, and people scroll through images at lightning paces. One can see, appreciate, give a "like", and possibly even leave a comment all within just a few seconds. Chances are that there are several reasons for centering a subject, and depending on the photographer, it might just be instinct or there might be deeper reasons as to why they compose the shots they do. My theory is that centering your subject makes it easier for viewers to connect with your image instead of taking the time to immerse themselves in a more complex composition. Centering things, when viewed on the small screen of a cell phone, makes it much more likely for viewers to find the subject, appreciate it, and possibly even have an emotional connection to it. Perhaps these social media influencers aren't delving that deep into the psychology of their displayed works on the platform; nonetheless, they seem to have tapped into something that is more likely to drive success.
Maybe you've noticed this exact same trend in the works of people that you follow on Instagram. I must admit, I only noticed this trend after I realized that I had inadvertently begun to center things in my own photography. After that, I began looking into other photographers' work to see how many other people do the exact same thing. So, what do you think? Why are centered compositions so popular for social media display?