What is it that makes a photograph stand out? It is certainly more than just correct exposure or whether or not the photographer has achieved perfect focus. Even photos that are technically “correct” can be BLAH if they are not well composed. And I’ve certainly seen plenty of photos that were not focused or exposed correctly that have still had plenty of visual appeal because of the way they were presented.
So what are some basic tips to improve your composition?
1- The rule of thirds.
Wikipedia’s describes the rule of thirds as “a compositional rule of thumb in photography and other visual arts such as painting. The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines.” The idea is to place the main subject on, or close to, one of the intersecting lines. Human tendency is to place the subject directly in the center.
Here’s the way most people would frame a shot of a couple (special thanks to my sister for taking this picture of us–centered–just because my husband insisted on it)…..
My sister and I convinced my husband that an off-center photo of us would look even better. He didn’t believe us until he saw the image later. Now he wants it framed. :)
Have you heard of the Dutch tilt? The Dutch tilt is “a cinematic tactic achieved by tilting the camera off to the side. The shot is composed with the horizon not parallel with the bottom of the frame.” Recently, I’ve seen this technique being used quite a bit in photography. While it is not a technique that you would want to use on every picture, it certainly catches the viewer’s attention and can be really fun.
Instead of always taking photos of people “straight on”, try shooting your subject from lower or higher than their eye level. This works particularly well when taking close-ups or head shots of people.
3- Some photos require a wide zoom. Others work better zoomed in close to your subject. Think about what you’re trying to say in your photos. Is the focus of your photo a person or a landscape? What ever your focus, FOCUS on that.
4- Learn the “rules” and tips of composition and then be prepared to break them. Photography is an art. Be creative.
Remember that art is subjective. A photo that is very aesthetically pleasing to one person may be completely boring to another. My best tip–Move around and try something new!
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