Composing Better Pictures

Taking better pictures begins with understanding composition. Here are suggestions for composing better pictures:

  • Rule of Thirds – the most basic composing tool used by photographers is the Rule of Thirds. Imagine dividing the camera frame (what you see) into thirds vertically and horizontally. Placing the subject at one of the four places those imaginary lines intersect will often provide the most dynamic and interesting image. Not every photograph should be taken this way, but the rule of thirds often creates the most exciting images.
  • Depth – an image whose attention leads from foreground to background is compelling. The smaller the aperture (f 22) the longer the exposure and the greater the depth of field. Attaining hyper focal distance requires setting the camera for the greatest depth of field while using a tripod for sharpness.
  • Closeups – macro and closeup photography add information that’s missing in longer shots. Include closeups to add visual interest and detail.
  • Diagonal Alignment – diagonal lines create graphic excitement and lead the eye to subjects.
  • Negative Space – empty space is a good thing. It can provide tension and information not seen.
  • Balance – sometimes having everything in balance and centered is the most powerful way to present something.
  • Change Your Perspective – don’t always shoot photos the same way … standing up. Shoot low; shoot from above; shoot from an angle; shoot close; shoot far away; shoot tilted.
  • Shoot Candidly – encourage subjects to act naturally. It makes a more interesting photograph when subjects seem to be unaware you’re taking a picture.
  • Frame the Subject – trees, fishing poles, rocks, shrubs, windows and doors … these all can provide natural framing which accentuates and contains an image while strengthening expression.
  • Frame for Action – anticipate action that will be entering the frame and set shutter speed to stop or blur it.
  • Silhouettes, Reflections and Shadows – each can help generate a more powerful visual story than the subject alone. Consider including these in photo essays.
  • Golden Hour – Light is warmest the hour following sunrise and preceding sunset. These early morning and twilight hours are the golden hour; pictures taken then often provide the most drama.

Illustrating this article are photos taken on assignment in Iceland using an iPhone 5 with add-on lenses. As can be seen in them, several of these composition techniques were used.

All Images by John Poimiroo, taken on his iPhone 5 while on assignment in Iceland
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