An important element of improving as a photographer is learning about composition. Composition is how we put together and arrange things in a photo to make it look well balanced and artful. There are tried and tested ways of arranging the elements in a photograph to look “pleasing” to the eye and they have been used in art for centuries. Sometimes nature does this composition for us and all we have to do is point the camera in the right direction and click, but mostly we have to work a little at it to make our photos look the best they can be.
If you struggle with knowing how to best compose your photos, I want to encourage you to first of all SLOW down and think about your shot before you take it. All too often we are in a hurry to shoot and we miss things that could help bring the shot to the next level. Slowing down will help you focus on the beauty or the emotion that you are trying to capture and allow you time to think about how to best approach your shot. Slowing down will give you time to think about the following four things:
1.What do I want the FOCAL POINT of the image to be?
The Focal Point of your image is usually the most important thing in the frame. Its that end place that you want the viewer’s eye to rest on when they are looking at your final photo an it is usually the sharpest thing in your frame.
ACTION: Place the camera’s Focus POINT (red dot or black squares) over your FOCAL POINT by toggling your focus points or use the “Focus Lock and Recompose” technique .
2. WHEREABOUTS do I want to place the Focal Point in the FRAME?
Evidence suggests that placing your focal point bang slap in the middle of your frame is not a good look. One of the most widely known “rules” of photographic composition is the Rule of Thirds. the Rule of Thirds is where you think of your frame being divided into a tic-tac-toe grid. The rule suggests you should place your points of interest (including your focal point) where the gridlines intersect. A good exercise is to go through your image library and see how you could re-crop your photos with the Rule of Thirds in mind to improve them.
There are many other composition “rules” and we cover each of these in depth each month in my Take 52 PLUS membership group. Another basic one is the concept of Balance. There are many types of balance in an image one of which is when an image just ‘feels” well balanced. This could be because the visual weight of each side of the image is in check or even everything is perfectly symmetrical. Think about what might throw an image off balance for you.
Perspective is also something that can completely change the composition of your image. Taking time to consider your point of view, your choice of lens and you choice of focal distance can help you to create improved compositions.
3. How am I going to direct attention to my Focal Point?
You want to give as many clues as possible to the most important part of your image and there are many various composition techniques for achieving this. Some of the more basic things you can think about is using Leading Lines which draw your viewers eye into your image, or using a natural frame to frame your shot.
Bright highlights as they will draw the viewer’s eye towards them and shadows will generally lead the eye away from an area so be mindful about where these appear in your image.
4. What to leave in or what to leave out of the Frame
This last point is probably the one that will make the biggest difference to your photos. If something doesn’t add to the story that you are trying to tell in your image, then leave it out of the shot. Use your zoom to crop in nice and tight if your main subject is a person. Leave no question about what the main focal point of your image is. Sometimes, you need supporting information in your frame to add to the story. If this is the case, then by all means, leave it in. It’s all your call. But if something makes it into the frame, there should be a good reason for it being there!
If you would like to delve deeper into COMPOSITION theory and technique I’d love to have you join us in the Take 52 PLUS group. Its an awesome way to step up your photography game with directed monthly assignments and peer feedback from a supportive community.
And if you are thinking, how on earth am I going to remember all of this stuff when it comes to taking a photo, sign up below to get your free Cheat Sheet on Composition!