10 Composition Tips

How we compose our photographs has a huge impact on whether the final image is successful or not.  Composition is simply how we arrange things in the viewfinder to find a pleasing arrangement and tell the best story.  You have many tools at your disposal when composing images to create more impact, so here's my top ten tips for creating a well composed photograph that can help elevate it from being a simple snapshot.

1. Be aware of your background 
One of the most likely reasons to have a "snapshot" look to your photographs is if you don't check the background, and you end up with a tree or pole growing out of someone's head! Always check your background and make sure there are no unwelcome distractions - especially those that are difficult to clone out.

2. Keep Horizons Level 
If you have a horizon in your picture you should aim to get it straight.  Your camera may have a grid or a horizon level to help you with this, plus it's easy to fix this in post processing.  Tilting the horizon for no good reason just makes the picture unsettling.

3. Use the rule of thirds
This isn't really a rule, but rather a guide to getting balance in your images.  If you place your subject in the middle of the frame, although the image will be balanced it will be "static", in other words, a bit boring to the viewer! Putting the subject to the side using the rule of thirds generally creates balance, but dynamically.

4. Use Negative Space
You can use negative space to draw your viewers eye around the frame and then to your intended subject.  Negative space is simply an area of your picture that is uncluttered and gives the eye a chance to rest and make your subject pop. There is more information and some examples here.

5. Maximise depth of field 
This works in much the same way as depth of field in that you are blurring the background intentionally to allow your subject to take centre stage.  This is used a lot in portrait photography for that very reason!

6. Change the Point of Focus 
When using depth of field as noted above, another way to change the image's composition is to selectively focus, either on something else entirely, or a very small part of the image, say the eyelashes. The draws the viewer straight into the main "story" of the image.

7. Experiment with different angles 
A different angle can completely change the look and feel of a shot, so move around your subject and shoot from the side, up above, or from below.

8. Use Lines 
Another way to compose your image is to look for leading lines, those that draw the eye along the length and straight to your subject are the best!

9. Change How "Wide" your Shot Is 
You can choose to zoom in close on your child and fill the frame either with a detail or the whole face or body, or you can zoom out and include more in the photograph to show where they were - perhaps walking in the forest or on a beach.  Consider which will help you tell the story you want best.

10. Break the rules! 
Although these guides can help your images be more intriguing, there are times when breaking the rules is more effective. It's been said before, but I'll say it again, knowing when to break those rules will be much easier if you have learnt and understood them in the first place. Just remember, if you think it "works" even though it breaks a "rule", then it probably does.

I hope this has given you some composition ideas for this week!


barb durtche said...

I just found your FB page and blog and think...KNOW...I'll visit often. I have a lot to learn and your tips are great.
Thank you

Audrey said...

I'm so glad you are finding it helpful!

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