Composition, Composition, Composition!

You might say that a photographer’s counterpoint to the real estate adage Location, location, location! is Composition, composition, composition!

This blog is part of a series about the important role of composition in the making of your images. Think about the word compose: writers compose, musicians compose, landscape architects compose and many others compose when creating their art.

For a photographer, to compose means to arrange the elements of your image in a way that will engage the viewer. This is, I think, what attracts so many people to photography because it’s fun to be in charge of these decisions! This is where you get to be creative in making an image that is uniquely you.

I took the image below in my historic neighborhood keeping in mind some of the tips below.


Here are 5 tips to help you with composition decisions and help you avoid some common pitfalls that can detract from your image.

  1. Get close to your subject so that it fills the frame.
    The great war photographer and photojournalist, Robert Capa, is quoted as saying, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough!”
  2. Practice composing your shot in the camera instead of saying, I can crop later.
    Why? Well for one thing, when you crop out some of the image, what remains is a smaller file, which limits how large you can print your image. Instead of planning to crop later, train yourself to compose the shot in the camera when you take it so you don’t have to crop (or crop much) later. It’ll not only save you time cropping, but you’ll have a higher resolution image for printing.
  3. Zoom with your feet!
    Many mobile device cameras come with a zoom feature, but I find that they don’t really work very well. When you zoom in on a subject from afar, you usually end up with an image that is grainy or blurry or both. You’re much better off zooming with your feet by stepping closer to your subject when possible.
  4. Use natural light, especially when shooting portraits.
    I find that the flash on mobile phones produces harsh light that is unattractive. If you’re outside in the middle of a bright day, look for a spot in the shade were the sun won’t create shadows on your subject’s face. If indoors, look for the soft light near a window. If there’s a sheer white curtain to soften the light more, even better! The soft light will spread evenly across your subject, instead of creating distracting shadows. If you shoot under florescent or incandescent lights, your image may require some processing later to adjust its white balance to get the color right.
  5. When composing your image, look closely at the edges of your frame and shoot to eliminate distractions, like light spots or tree branches, that don’t add anything to the image.
    Move your eye around the edge of the frame asking yourself, Is there anything here that will distract my viewer? The viewer’s eye will naturally go to those elements in a photo that are sharpest and brightest. If you compose your image with a bright spot on an edge, the viewer will reflexively look at that bright spot and away from the intended subject of your image.

As an added help in composing your images, turn on your camera’s Rule of Thirds grid. (See the previous Sherish Blog, Using the Rule of Thirds Grid to Create Compelling Images! for more information.)

Look for more about composition in future Sherish blog posts.

Until next time, happy shooting!

Rad A. Drew
Blog post ©Rad Drew Photography. All rights reserved.

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