When it comes to photography, anyone can point a camera and take an average photo. However, by slowing down and paying attention to composition, a skilled photographer can create a more compelling and visually pleasing photo that stands out and holds the viewer’s attention.
Basically, composition is the framing of your image and the placement of your subject within that frame to enhance the story and create balance. It is shooting with purpose.
Here are a few tips that will help you create more impactful images with better composition:
1. Start with the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is the foundation for composition. The idea is to split your frame into thirds and place your subject in the left or right third of an image instead of the center. This applies to any subject, including landscapes and horizons.
The rule of thirds generally leads to well-composed and stronger shots.
2. Avoid distractions
When you take a photo, it’s important to have a clear subject or focal point. To avoid other elements competing for attention with your main subject, scan the edges of your frame and your background for bright, colorful, and distracting elements. Move around and recompose if necessary.
Similarly, if there’s anything in the frame that is not adding to the story and is cluttering your image, get rid of it. Keep it clean and simple.
3. Convey depth
When you take a photo, you convert a world that exists in 3D onto a 2D flat paper or screen. To give a sense of depth to the image and make it more interesting, try layering your image to include a foreground, middle ground, and background. It helps lead the viewer’s eye from the front to the back of the photo.
In the portrait below, instead of focusing on the man’s face, I included layers with the vegetables in the foreground and the clutter in the background to enhance his story and give the scene a sense of depth.
4. Guide your viewer
The goal of composition is to guide your viewer through your photo to make them look at your subject and understand the story you are telling. There are a few ways to achieve that goal.
For example, including leading lines—lines that point toward your main subject—is a great way to draw the eye into the image.
You can also try framing, or using objects in the foreground of a scene—such as doors, windows, or tree branches—to create a window around the main subject. This helps isolate it, add context to its surroundings, and create a visual interest to draw the viewer’s eye towards it.
5. Change your angle
Rather than taking a photo from our everyday eye-level perspective, try changing your angle by getting lower, climbing higher, or moving around your subject.
This technique can simplify the composition by eliminating distracting elements in the background and give a unique viewpoint.
In this photo of young monks releasing a lantern, I decided to lie on my back on the floor and shoot upwards. It not only created a unique viewpoint, but it also helped me hide the hundreds of tourists and distractions in the background.
No matter what gear you use, studying and practicing the basics of composition will help you capture your subject and story in a more harmonious way and create a more appealing image for the viewer.