Turning a good shot into a great one can merely be just a shift in position be it your camera or the subject. That’s how composition works! A visually attractive composition should be simple and engaging, after all, it’s sole purpose is to place your subject in the limelight as best possible.
Composition is a versatile technique that can be applied to any camera – DSLR, digital or even mobile. Ultimately, it depends on personal preference and the current environment you’re in. To help you along your photo-taking journey, we have prepared a set of guidelines on mastering compositions. Read on=)
1. Rule Of Thirds
This is the most well-used compositional technique and fortunately also easily mastered. Just imagine a nine-sectioned grid and using the lines to position your subject. Most cameras – even mobile phones have a grid lines display function that will help you along. Here are 2 ways you can utilize this rule.
- Place the main focal point on one of the intersecting lines where the eyes are usually drawn to first.
- For landscapes, the grid will help determine where to place your horizons for the best effect.
2. Placement Of Horizons
Since we’re on the topic of horizons, there are 3 ways you can compose landscapes.
- Top of the frame – when your foreground is the most important part of the scene so you remove the dull sky.
- Bottom of the frame – If the sky is the interesting part, show it off!
- Middle of the frame – Good for lake or river scenes to help create some symmetry.
From Left – Right (#827556@anp, #9075702@Galyna Andrushko, #34297877@freeartist)
3. Lead-In Lines
Whether it’s natural or man-made, these are like invisible lines leading the eye through the entire image. The most commonly seen features are like roads, fences or natural scenes of rivers and streams. There are a few ways you can utilize this technique – horizontal,diagonal or vertical – but one of the most effective one would be converging lines. Imagine you are standing on a road, you’ll find that the road appears like it’s moving closer and closer till it trails off into a “vanishing point” in the distance. This effect is best taken with a wide-angled lens so the lines are far apart when close-up and slowly closing off into the distance.
4. Foreground Interest
This is the best way to create dynamic compositions being the area of a scene closest to the camera. The foreground interest, when emphasized, will help give your images a strong depth and scale which provides a guide for the eyes to naturally travel through the background.
When shooting landscapes, the foreground close to the camera is also not affected by haze or mist-like situations that are more distant. Basically, the wider the lens used, the more foreground you can include so do adjust accordingly. Finally, always keep your foreground interesting but not too noisy that it overwhelms the entire scene.
5. Create Symmetry
Symmetry, when used in the right scene with the perfect subject, produces amazing shots. Reflections are the most common form of this technique and you’ll often find it in lakes, puddles, and even windows. Finding the right viewpoint is the key to shooting symmetry, best is to keep your camera level and steady to achieve perfection. If you really can’t find symmetry around you, this is where some Photoshop skills will be helpful. All you need is to crop out one half of the image, make a copy, flip it and join both halves together using the Move tool. Face-flipped portraits, anyone?
6. Unusual Focus
This is where aperture comes to play. A small aperture will create better depth- of-field whereas a wide one will blur the background of portraits. Out-of-focus shots can be used to direct the eye on the main subject, making it stand out. This is called “differential focusing” where you use the widest aperture to achieve a narrow area of sharp focus – something like a macro shot – which we covered in this article (link to close up article).
For landscapes, try focusing on something far away like a tree, and allow the foreground to fade away. You can use the same effect for portraits too! Have one person close to the camera and another one in the distance and play around with the focusing. Better yet, if there is a prop nearby, it will deem useful to create an interesting picture.
7. Point of View
If you notice, most photographs are taken at eye level and that is not a bad thing as it just portrays the realistic view of our surroundings. However, there is more to a shot than what meets the eye and by shooting at an angled view, it adds a touch of surprise and excitement to your shots. There are two viewpoints you can play around with:
- Low viewpoint – Using a wide-angled lens, it creates some distortion. Feel free to move around and keep checking the image to see how it turns out. Nowadays, cameras are made with vari-angle LCD monitors so you can compose your shot from various angles.
- High viewpoint – A fascinating bird’s eye view of the scene. This is great when shooting tall buildings or city skyscrapers, looking down below with a telezoom perhaps to catch the little details.
From Left – Right (#31311983@Robert Churchill, #43064031@ivantagan)
8. Do Your Research
Whether you are just starting out or been in the photography world for some time, it is always helpful to study the work of other professional photographers to see the style in which they are shooting a particular subject. Take notes of the focal points they used, or things like foreground interest, perspective and the scale of their shots so you can apply the same concept in your work. Visit popular blogs and websites of your favorite shutterbugs for inspiration or subscribe to Flickr so you can slowly develop your own style once you have mastered the basics.
So there you have it! These steps will hopefully help you compose better photographs in your next project. Take a shot at it! Good luck=)