Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Composition can really make or break an image. Its what separates your image from everyone elses- especially at a popular location. The composition is almost like the recipe of the image- its how everything comes together in the end. I know you are probably like me, getting back home after a shoot and looking through all of your images thinking "damn, wish I moved left a bit here", "a higher angle would work better with this shot". So I've come up with a list of 5 ways you can improve your composition and stop this from happening as often.
1. Looking for your Composition (how to do it)
Once you get to the location you want to shoot in you really want to take some time figuring out your composition. The last thing you want to do is arrive just before the sun sets or rises- scramble to get your camera and rush everything. Believe me I have done that many times myself. Take a walk around and take what I call test shots on your camera. Let your eye take it where it takes you and just try it out. Lucky for us we have digital cameras so if it didn't work you can just delete it.
Look for a point of interest. By that I mean something to attract the viewers attention to. This could be a tree, animal, mountain, anything you want. Get creative with it!
This is an example - using the building as a point of interest to draw the viewer in. The road is just a bonus!
2. Find some Visual Weight
Use lines and shapes to allow the viewer to navigate around the image. This could be something like a leading line- a line that leads the viewers eye into an image or a repeated pattern like a repeating tree line.
Just like in this image the road drags your eye in to the subject then allows you to look all over the image to elements like the repeated tree line and mountain.
3. Look to make your Images 3D
Always be looking around for light that will add a 3D effect to your images. Something with a shadow and a highlight on it. So if you get your phone out now and shine the torch on your hand. You can see the shape of your hand is way more defined with the bright light and dark shadows the torch is making. You can make similar effects with the sun when it's low. Work out where it's going to be when it sets and how that might shape whatever you are going to photograph.
You can see in the above image the sunlight is hitting the side of all the bushes, trees and viaduct. This is giving a really nice 3D effect to the image.
This is how artists make all of their images look 3D using just light and shadow. Works great in photos too.
4. Tell a Story
The best photos always convey a mood or a feeling experienced at the particular location you visited. As Ansel Adams said "You don't take a photo, you make it." This should be a massive factor in the way you compose your photo to separate it from others.
Like in this image I really wanted to show off the scale of the mountains by using this refuge hut. I wanted to show the how cold it was with the blues and the incredible sunset with the orange. I just wanted to show how much this location really blew me away. That was the story behind this image.
Every image you take you need to have a thought process where you are thinking about the purpose of the image and the story behind it.
5. Avoid Distracting Elements
When I talk about distracting elements, I mean something that takes the viewers eye away from what you want them to see in the picture. Something unnecessary. For example something at the edge of your frame that will distract the viewers attention. Or something really distracting behind your subject.
Just like in the above image- the branches in the side of the frame do not add anything to the shot. The tree I've circled is also distracting attention from the tree next to it. I feel this image would work a lot better without the three circled distracting elements.
That's the 5 tips for you there. So get out and practice. Send me some of your shots I'd be excited to see your progress. You can join my facebook group here.