BACK TO BASICS: Composition

Composition and Trusting Your Instincts

The windows are centered horizontally and the grasses in the lower left add interest.

Good photos have good composition. There are several guidelines for achieving a good composition, but these are not hard and fast rules. Oftentimes what looks right to you is the best composition. In other words, trust your instincts too.

Try keeping it simple. Reduce the scene to only what is needed to tell your story. This eliminates visual confusion and draws attention to your subject. Your eye won’t have to wander around the entire image trying to find what to focus on.

There is a basic formula for composition called the Rule of Thirds. Divide your frame into three equal sections, either vertically or horizontally. Place objects of interest off center, either closer to the top third or to the bottom third of the frame. Or on the left or right side. Using this rule can make for a more interesting composition, rather than placing your horizon line smack dab in the middle.

Changing the orientation of the camera from horizontal to vertical can completely change the look of an image. Trees and tall buildings can often look better in a vertical format.

Lines that lead your eye into the scene such as a winding road fading off into the horizon, or the ripples made by swimming ducks in a pond, add interest to your image. Looking up at tall buildings could lead your eyes to dramatic skies. Change your position if you need to, and find that leading line for your scene.

You can also use foreground objects such as doorways, buildings or trees to frame your subject, so it becomes the center of interest.

The combination of a few simple rules and trusting your instincts are solid guidelines to follow. Basically, it looks good to you and feels right…take the shot.

  1. September 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I’ll be back again, and again. You have some good tips and good photos. I’m trying to learn a lot more about photography.

    • September 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and I am glad to be of help.

  2. September 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Glad you stopped in at my blog because now I have found yours 🙂 – I think I can learn a lot here – I’ll be back

    • September 22, 2011 at 8:54 am

      Thanks for stopping by also and I’ll try to help as much as I can.

  3. September 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Good advise. Taking the time to compose the shot makes a huge difference. It separates great shots from the snapshots. I keep Ansel Adams’ quote with me on all photo walks: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” That’s so true.

    • September 22, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Thanks Cheryl. You are exactly right !! Ya know…I think I will carry Ansel’s bit of wisdom there with me too. It’s funny…my wife can tell when I was in the “zone” as she calls it and when I am not (snapshot day). I guess we all do that from time to time.

  4. September 22, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Nice article on composition, David.

    • September 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

      Thanks Bob!! I like to do the “back to basics” every now and again not only for the folks that are new to photography but also for us seasoned folks. We are on auto pilot and sometimes a friendly reminder is a good thing.

  5. September 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I forgot to mention. It is a co-incidence that I wrote an article favoring pan-heads, yesterday. Don’t hold it against me. 🙂

    • September 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

      No worries Bob. I still have my old Bogen 3 way pan head. Used that head faithfully for 25 years and will swap back and forth as need be.

  6. September 23, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Nice sharing, Thank you David,

    Have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

    • September 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

      You’re welcome and have a nice weekend too!!

  7. sarahloub
    September 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Great reminders and tips on composition! I definitely go with the “gut” shots a lot… for better or worse haha.

    • September 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      Glad you found them useful. Composition and light are the key!

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