Composition is one of the biggest things that separates Amateurs from Professionals. My wife recently asked me how I compose my shot, but it was almost impossible for me to explain what I look for. I started thinking about the different scenarios I shoot in and put together together a list of 10 composition tips and tricks. Hopefully these tips and tricks help you out...
- Find the Right Lens - A wide angle lens is a lens of inclusion. A telephoto lens is a lens of exclusion. Anything in between is useful when trying to capture around what your eyes see. Understanding that will help you pick the right lens to compose your shot.
- Choose a Point of Interest - You may not realize it, but all photography has a point of interest. Whether it's the way the light flows through your scene or the way a mountain peaks into the sky, there should always be something specific you want to capture in your shot even if it's part of the overall scene.
- Watch the Sun - To eliminate bad lighting, try framing the shot for the light. I often come home with shots that simply don't work because the sky was too boring or shadows were too soft. If you are ever in that situation try reframing your shot towards the light.
- Leading Lines - Leading lines are visual "lines" that lead the viewer’s eyes through the frame. It makes the viewer feel like they are looking into your picture instead of just at it. It can be quite powerful especially in architecture shots. Leading lines can be anything from the way the edge of a building draws your eyes to the top to a river drawing your eyes across the scene.
- Shoot Vertically and Horizontally - I used to question whether a shot I took would have looked better had I just rotated the camera. I have since practiced taking shots both vertically and horizontally and choosing later. You would be surprised how often I pick a shot I never thought I would have liked simply because rotating the camera make me reframe the shot entirely.
- Look For & Use Shapes - You would be surprised how many shapes photographers include in their photographs. It can be something as simple as a window being a rectangle to something as complicated as negative space being circular. Square shapes tend to help framing while circular give a sense of depth and motion. I know it may sound crazy, but it does work. The great part about this tip is that you may be doing it and not realizing it. Go back and look at the shots you consider well composed. You may end up seeing how shapes make up and frame the shot.
- Try Leaving Negative Space - One rule to understand is that a frame doesn't have to be filled to be well composed. Negative space is simply the open space around an object. As simple as it is to understand, mastering it takes practice. Negative space can be used to draw the viewer's eyes to one specific area as well as push an emotion such as peacefulness or loneliness.
- Avoid the Center - The first time most amateurs grab a camera, they'll center everything in their shots. That's not to say a shot of something centered can't work, but try something different. Try using the rule of thirds to place the subject on one of the four intersecting lines or try and figure out the golden ratio (Good luck!). In other words, try both centering the subject as well as moving it around the scene. Just know, this isn't usually true for portrait photography.
- Color Creativity - Color creativity is the idea of using the frame of your camera to capture contrasting colors. I say the frame of your camera because you should try boxing in the color instead of having them be widely across your shot. Sometimes it's as simple as a light colored building with a bright blue sky behind it or green grass with bright colorful flowers on it. It makes for a very interesting image that catches a viewer's eye instantly. Instagram's profiles are made up of small square previews of your full image. The one's that stand out the most typically have great color creativity.
- Frame your Frame - If you are looking for a very unique way to shoot, try shooting through objects like doors, windows, etc where you include the frame of the object in the frame of your shot. Not only does this let you get creative with your shot, it also allows you to play with the light and decide how much you want it to bleed through the object. You could have a completely blacked out border or have the border be as lit as what's outside of it.
These are all individual tips. If you tried putting them all together, I can't even imagine what your shot would look like. If you have any questions or want examples of each tip, let me know below. Good Luck and Happy Shooting!