Tips for better compositions

Today let’s talk about more tips for better compositions. Ever wonder why many photos look blah? Been there, done that? Do you want yours to stand out more? Well, one way to make your images more attractive and interesting is to think ahead about what message, story or emotion you’re trying to express. Also be mindful of the foreground, main subject, background, lighting and direction of the light, where you want to lead your viewer’s eyes, and so on. It helps if you try to visualize how you want the picture to look before taking it. That can make a huge difference, and it takes practice, practice, practice!

There are also several photographic “rules,” which are really just guidelines. But they’re important, and once you learn them, you’ll soon discover when it’s better to break them.

The first “rule” I want to mention is the Rule of Thirds. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid in your viewfinder or LCD. Generally, the most visually-pleasing placement of the most important part of your image, such as the eyes and head, should be at or near one of the intersecting points of the grid, or on one of the gridlines, as shown in the first pelican photo. The second Pelican photo looks tense: the bird has no place to go in the frame, no breathing room. And with the first Pelican, you see a bit more of his environment, and he has space to move. In the photo at the end of this article, the Tufted Titmouse, the entire bird may be centered, but look where I placed the main subject – the head, eyes and beak: along one of the gridlines. Doesn’t your eye go right to the bird’s head and make you think about what’s going on there?

Pelican, Framed Dead-Center


Pelican, Placed on a Virtual Grid

Another idea: Change your perspective and find unusual places to photograph from. Be different. Stand out. Don’t be afraid to get into the water, down low, up high. Jeans and sneakers will dry, so who cares if you get a little wet (just be careful of your gear!). Even sliding over just a foot or two can make a huge difference in your composition. And always remember to turn around! Look around you, check out different angles and positions. Watch your background so you don’t photograph a branch looking like it’s growing from your mother-in-law’s head! Draw people into your image…. Make them feel like they’re there, like they know more about what’s going on, and so they’ll say “Wow, I never saw a bird quite that way before!” Your friends and family will remember those pictures.

Tufted Titmouse

Had I blinked, I might have missed this Tufted Titmouse examining its toes, wondering if it was time for a pedicure. Or deciding the best way to snag that worm under water for a little snack. Whatever you decide he’s thinking, one thing’s for sure:  Shooting from unusual angles can yield unexpected – and exciting – photos!


~ by Karen Rosenblum on July 7, 2010.

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