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Digital Photography Composition Tips
'Can you please produce a tutorial and tips collection on Composition of good digital images?' (Reader suggestion via email from Gary).
Thank you Gary for your suggestion. Your question spurred us into action and we've just spend a number of hours scouring the web for the best tutorials on Photographic Composition that we can find. All of the following tips are relevant for photographers using both the digital and film medium. There is no shortage of information out there and we're open to readers suggesting their favorite tips below in comments - but here are some of our favorite composition tips and tutorials from around the web.
Here's a quick one for starters - a series at Digital Photography School on some basics of Photographic Composition Tips.
Please note these are tips on the subject on 'Composition' which focuses upon how to arrange your subject in the frame and not on other technicalities of shooting digital images like using a flash, shooting in different modes etc... If you'd like more information on other techniques see the rest of our Digital Photography tips section.
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- Lets start with the good old favorite - The Rule of Thirds - 'One of the most popular 'rules' in photography is the Rule Of Thirds. It is also popular amongst artists. It works like this:
Imaginary lines are drawn dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. You place important elements of your composition where these lines intersect.' Of course some of the most stunning pictures break this and most of the following 'rules'. But it whether you follow them religiously or break them rebelliously its worthwhile knowing them.
- Neil Turner at DP Review recommends finding different heights to shoot from - 'The best photographs are made when the photographer chooses a vantage point to suit the subject, and it is surprising how few subjects are suited by the height of a human standing at their full five to six feet'.
- On Composition suggests five ways to 'both strengthen our photographic observational skills and improve our image making.' The five areas are:
- Kill the Clutter
- Think Graphic Design
- Dark on Light and Light on Dark
- Be Mindful of Relationships
- Shoot not Objects, but rather Appearances
- Neil Turner recommends Having an Eye for Detail - 'When an image is competing for space on a newspaper page it has to stand out. The enlightened editors at our papers allow images to arouse the reader's interest and don't insist that photographs tell the whole story all of the time. This approach works on every level, from the family album through e-mailed postcards to published images. Getting in close works.'
- Photoxels has a useful tip on Framing Your Picture - 'The use of a frame can turn an otherwise plain picture into a pleasing one. Usually a foreground element is used to create the frame. Examples are an overhanging tree branch, a window frame, a door, arches, a fence, rows of trees, etc.' Also check out This tutorial on Framing Pictures
- 'Basic Photography' recommends Filling the Frame - 'Sometimes your mind tends to exaggerate what you see through the viewfinder of your camera. You often perceive things a bit bigger than they actually are and you also tend not to notice 'slight' distractions. What you end up with is photographs with huge areas of wasted space around the edge and people with things growing out of their heads. Make sure your subject fills the frame.' Having said this rules are meant to be broken - you might also want to try using space to make your viewer think.
- Geoff Lawrence has some fantastic tips on cropping - 'One of the easiest ways to improve your photography is with careful attention to framing. Look into the corners of the viewfinder to see what is there. Do you need all that background? Can you get closer to your subject or zoom in? Would the picture look better as an upright or landscape?'
- Composition and the Elements of Visual Design has some very helpful tips that come at taking stunning photographs from a slightly different angle to many other tutorials. They examine elements that include - Line, Shape, Texture, Color, Positive and Negative space, Rhythm, Chaos, Coherance and Balance (to name just some). Its a very helpful Composition tutorial.
- Lastly in this series of Composition Tips we thought we'd include a tutorial on Breaking all the Rules. As we said above, sometimes in knowingly breaking compositional rules we actually create some of the most interesting and emotion provoking images possible.
Much more could (and has been) said on the subject of Composition in Photography. Readers might like to check out the many articles collected together in the Photography Composition Articles Library or suggest their own tips, experiences and resources with Composition in the comments section below.
Check out some of our other Digital Camera Tips:
- Histogram Tips
- Night and Low Light Digital Photography Tips
- Macro Digital Photography Tips
- Taking Images with Camera Phones Tips
- Depth of Field Tips
- Introduction to Photoblogging and Moblogging
- How to Choose a Digital Camera
- Digital Camera Care Tips
- Cleaning your Digital Camera Image Sensor
Also check out Digital Photography School for more free Digital Camera Tips on All Topics.
Posted by Darren in our Tips category on March 05, 2005