Wednesday, 19 July 2017

3 Composition Tips to Help Strengthen Your Photography

You could be the most technically skilled photographer but without strong compositions, photos will fall flat. Composition gives you the power to lead the viewer's eye to what exactly you want them to see or feel in an image.

Have you noticed that some images draw your attention more than others? You may not even realize why but usually composition has a lot to do with it.  Photos that use elements of composition to allow the eye to move around the image are typically more pleasing. Here are 3 simple tips you can try when composing your photos.

1) Rule of Thirds
You may already have heard about this one and let me start off by saying that there are also exceptions to this rule. Sometimes a photo with the subject in the middle can be powerful depending on the message but generally photos that place subjects off center will be more pleasing. Avoiding the center helps to create a more dynamic image that allows the eye to move around and rest. By leaving some negative space around the subject, the photo will feel more balanced and it puts the emphasis on the subject.

You can test this rule by taking a shot with your subject in the middle and then another shot where they are off center. Which one do you like better? Why does it work?

3) Perspective and Focus
This is a biggie and can really bring your photos up a few notches. When I'm shooting, I rarely take photos from the standing position. I squat, sit, stand on chairs, lie down, I creep over people's shoulders, I move my feet almost constantly. I would love a video of this since I'm sure it looks pretty funny but it's a way to find the strongest angle and photos that tell the story of what I'm shooting. If a family is busy doing an activity, I'll take shots from every vantage point and shift the focus from one family member to another, take a detail shot of someone's hands or pull back to take the entire family. These are the shots that make you feel like you were in the room with them. Think also about what to include and what to exclude from the frame.

Challenge yourself to take photos in any position other than standing. Especially working with children, getting down low or up high opens up a whole other world of possible compositions. Take a scene and take shots from a wider perspective, close-up, from above and from below. See how they can work together to tell the story.

3) Lines
Lines are everywhere if you look for them. Diagonal lines in particular really have a way to lead the eye to the subject if you use them right. Countertops, patterns in flooring, walls, fences, windows, arms, legs, footprints, play structures, horizon lines - the possibilities are endless.

Try making images where those lines shoot diagonally up from the corner of your photo.

To see these composition elements at work, check out the photos below.

In this image, you can see the lines in the flooring, the lines created by the shadows from the window and the wall all leading back to the subject. Even the father's hand is angled diagonally which helps the eye move up to the scene. I was kneeling down when I took this shot so that I would be at the same level.

I got down low and used the table to lead the eye to this little boy playing with his puzzles. 

In this photo, the angel of the light/shadow in the floor, the bent arm and the leg are all drawing the eye up towards the subject and to her face. I composed the photo so that she was off center, allowing the eye to move around the photo. I was standing on a chair to get a higher vantage point for this shot.

The negative space here helps to keep the focus on the couple, you also see lines from the dress, mouldings and the railing in the back all pointing towards the subjects. I shot this from a crouching position to include all of the lines and to introduce a more dynamic perspective. 

It's all about perspective and lines in this shot. The lines actually work to frame the subject as well and the fun perspective adds interest. 

Take some time to study images that inspire you and see if you can figure out why - what elements of composition are they using? Examining images and understanding why the photographer chose that composition, why it works or why you like it is a great way to really strengthen your photography.

As always, I'd love to see your images and how you use these elements. Feel free to contact me or to ask questions!