Focus on composition.
- Look for leading lines, especially those that sweep in from the edge of the frame.
- Decide the orientation: landscape or portrait.
- Apply framing (if available): a photo within a photo.
- See if you can use foreground and create a layered photo.
- Consider using symmetry.
- Consider applying the rule of thirds.
- Work the frame: ensure nothing is there that shouldn’t be there, avoid passive areas.
- Think where to put more visual weight in the photo.
taking great pictures is less about technical knowhow and much more about mastering that most valuable piece of kit – your eyes.
‘You don’t take a photograph, you make it’
Think of composition as the foundations of your image. And just like those of a building, foundations need to be strong.
Composition is all about how you choose to order the visual elements in your picture. It’s slippery and subjective, and often something you have to feel rather than calculate.
Look for leading lines
Great compositions take you on a journey. Your eyes are guided around the image on a specific path, leading to where the photographer wants to take you.
Use leading lines to give your composition structure and draw the viewer to key elements.
One main leading line is often all you need and they’re at their most powerful when they sweep in from the edge of the frame.
If you keep your eyes peeled you’ll find leading lines everywhere
don’t be shy about making these lines very overt in your image.
Horizontal pictures (or landscape format) encourage our eyes to move from side to side. Vertical pictures (or portrait format) make them move up and down.
Choosing the format has nothing to do with whether you’re shooting landscapes or portraits. Instead, try to match the format of your picture to the dominant lines – or natural flow – of your subject. This means the shape of your picture and the subject matter will work together to guide the eye in one clear direction.
Framing draws attention to a particular part of your composition. It’s especially handy if you’re shooting a busy scene.
Look for doorways, windows and openings – anything that might help to focus attention on a particular part of your composition. But framing is a powerful tool, so don’t just frame any old thing. Find subjects that are worth putting a frame around. Think of it as creating a photograph within your photograph.
Landscape photographers are especially picky. They don’t simply plonk their tripods anywhere. They hunt around for just the right spot. And it’s not a case of around about here will do, it’s a case of exactly here.
Foregound interest offers the viewer a stepping stone into your image and heightens its sense of depth.
When shooting landscapes, it’s easy to fixate on the big vistas, but always keep an eye on what’s going on immediately around you. Often what’s right at your feet holds the key to a crafted composition.
Get close. And then get closer.
Very often, nothing kills an image more than keeping your distance.
By getting in close – really close – and filling the frame with your subject, you’ll communicate that single, all important observation that captured your interest in the first place.
Think of cropping as a fine tuner rather than a way of fundamentally altering your image.
Symmetry isn’t simply a case of composing your image like an ink blot. It’s about creating an overall sense of harmony and balance.
Placing your subject in the middle of the frame is a good way to create symmetry. Just be warned: there’s a fine line between balance and boring. If everything is too perfectly mirrored, an image can feel a little soulless. Allow the human elements to creep in. The little things that draw our attention without upsetting the balance.
If you don’t want to centre your subject, the rule of thirds helps maintain balance.
Just use it as a rough guideline and be careful not to position your subject too near the edge of the frame, or only slightly off-centre, as this can look a little clumsy.
When lining up your shot, it’s your subtle movements that will make everything slot into place
ensure nothing is creeping into the frame that doesn’t belong.
When composing your image avoid ‘passive’ areas that don’t add much.
Just when you think you’re ready to take your picture, pause for a moment and glance around your frame – is everything where it should be? Is the composition working as a whole? If you’re not quite nailing it, change position – even very slightly – and keep an eye on how all the elements move around in relation to each other.
Don’t see the world as it is. See it as a photograph.
Feeling the visual weight of your scene is a complicated balancing act, but your eyes are already pretty effective weighing scales.
Good photographs conform to the rules. Really great photographs often break them.
While compositional techniques like leading lines, the rule of thirds, framing, and all the rest serve as essential building blocks, too much of that can make your photographs feel a bit safe and predictable.
So rather than making sure everything ‘conforms’, concentrate on creating compositions that capture the essence of your subject.