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Lesson 4: Ultimate Photography Composition Tips to Die for!

Composition in photography is one of the trickiest aspects to get right. Even though it’s easily one of the most important factors in photography—after all, who wants their pictures to come out looking like a disgrace?!—so many people fail at it. Composition is defined as the arrangement or placement of visual elements in a photograph, as distinct from the actual subject of your picture.

Composition is the key to any great photograph. Photo by Marsel van Oosten

Composition is the key to any great photograph. Photo by Marsel van Oosten

Composition problems are unique and unorthodox because they frustrate both new and old photographers alike! Composition problems don’t discriminate: They bedevil people old and young, experienced and inexperienced with equal zealousness! So what can you do? How can you get around this massive obstruction that threatens to cause your pictures to turn out like junk?

At Photodoto, we’ve been thinking about these problems for quite a while. Hey…that’s what we do since we’re here to make your photography life easier than ever! And you know what we determined? We decided that there just hasn’t been a definitive list of composition tips yet! Without further ado, here are our ultimate composition tips to help you arrange your shots as brilliantly as the pros.

The Subject Is Always the Star

Keep this tip in mind at all times, and you can rest assured that you’ll never go awry. The subject is called…the subject for a good reason: He is the star of your shot! So what is an appropriate way in which to treat your star? Make sure that you draw all the attention of your viewers to him.

Make sure your subject is prominent and emphasized in the shot. Photo by mudpig

Make sure your subject is prominent and emphasized in the shot. Photo by mudpig

How do you do this, you ask? Why, there are a number of little tricks you can apply. For instance, you can easily get in really close to the subject, or you can even just use a technique referred to as selective focus. If that doesn’t work for you, then you should try emphasizing the subject by utilizing color, by simply lighting only the subject in the photo or framing your subject in a window or doorway.

Beware the Dreaded Negative Space!

What’s negative space, to begin with? Negative space is defined as, essentially, just the space that’s around as well as between your subject in a picture. You should always be highly aware of this compositional factor in every photograph that you take!

The first rule is this: Never, ever leave too much negative space in a picture. Why would you want to do that in the first place? Negative space is clearly useful as a design effect, but leaving excessive amounts in your picture is just gratuitous and makes everything seem too empty.

This features waaaaay too much negative space! Photo by b-ephemeral

This features waaaaay too much negative space! Photo by b-ephemeral

This brings us to the second rule of negative space: Always use it wisely. For example, you should always leave room for your subject in the frame unless, of course, you have a really specific and justifiable reason not to!

Don’t Forget the Edges of the Frame

If there’s one mistake that photographers keep making without ever really thinking twice about it, it has to be that they cut off either the hands or feet of their subjects halfway. Be sure you check the edges of your frames carefully before succumbing to this mistake of carelessness.

Notice how this poor woman’s legs below the knee and even the top of her head were just cut off by the edges of the frame. That’s a photography no-no! Photo by Amanda Poland

Notice how this poor woman’s legs below the knee and even the top of her head were just cut off by the edges of the frame. That’s a photography no-no! Photo by Amanda Poland

Of course, there is no exact rule that declares you can’t do so—just be certain that your viewers understand precisely that you intended to do this! In other words, cutting off appendages in pictures should be done in a way that makes sense to your viewers. But how to go about this, you ask? Simple! For example, just make a nice and clean crop well above the wrists of your subject, if you’re serious about not including the hands.

Intruders Are Not Nice!

Always remember to check for intruders in your pictures. Everyone hates them, including your viewers. Here is an example of what exactly you should look for in terms of unwelcome visitors in the frame: things popping into your picture from the side. These things can be anything from just pesky tree branches and telephone poles to power lines.

The dreaded telephone pole! Photo by Nicholas Smale

The dreaded telephone pole! Photo by Nicholas Smale

If any of these invasive intruders does end up popping into the frame, then your whole photograph is basically ruined because it takes away attention from your precious subject. You know what? It does more than take away attention from your subject: It steals attention from your subject! To solve this problem of intruders, just recompose your photograph and then remove the offending objects.

Rule of Thirds, Baby

If there is one photography tip that has been constantly passed on from experienced photographer to less-experienced ones, it’s the rule of thirds and how vital it is to making pictures look sweet. The rule of thirds can be explained this way:

Imagine breaking any photograph into nine, equal parts, so that you’ve divided it horizontally and vertically (like a grid). To assist you, you can look at a photograph through the viewfinder or even via the LCD display on your camera. On this imaginary grid, there will be four intersections, all located somewhat close to the center of the photograph.

Composition 6

Always incorporate the hallowed rule of thirds into your pictures. Photo by Mark H.

The theory is that your entire photograph will become a whole lot more balanced when you position key points of interest on these intersections. In fact, science totally confirms this since numerous studies have shown that a viewer’s eyes will naturally drift to these four points of intersection instead of the dead center of the shot.

So when you’re taking shots of your subject, try positioning some of its most interesting parts along or right on these points of intersection.

Composition Can Make or Break Your Picture

Remember that good composition practices can make your picture all the more pleasing to the eye of the viewers. You can do everything to make the subject as awesome as possible and the star of your show, but when the actual placement and arrangement of everything else around your subject stinks, then you’ve just ruined your photograph!

Take these composition tips to heart, and you’ll never, ever shoot a bad picture again!

Composition: Don’t take it lightly. Photo by CubaGallery

Composition: Don’t take it lightly. Photo by CubaGallery

We can’t believe this is already our fourth lesson in this powerful email course! Through the first three parts, we’ve taken you on a fun and educational whirlwind journey through the finer points of knowing your subject, focusing and extremely vital camera settings. Believe us when we say that you definitely want to stay tuned for the fifth and final lesson in this impactful email series. It’s actually the most riveting of all lessons, and it’s coming up next!

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