Composition is - the way in which a whole or mixture is made up. 

A photo is a lot of moving parts. A photo is a mixture of components working together to create what is inside your frame. In order for your composition to work effectively, the components in your frame need to be working together and need to be drawing your viewer's eyes to exactly where you want them to go. 

I want to discuss two composition basics that will up your photography game. 

  • simplicity

  • rule of thirds

Simplicity creates focus within your image. The power of a photograph comes in what was left out. What are you making the viewer focus on? Are you trying to show a great moment between people? Take out everything that would take away from that moment.

This may include:

  • a distracting background
  • someone in the scene who is not adding to the moment
  • distracting lines or shapes
  • distracting colorful objects

In the below frames, I was photographing a bride putting her wedding dress on. On both sides of the frame, there was makeup, shoes, lamps, cords, etc. If I was not intentional about where I stood, I could have easily created distracting photos that took away from the moments. 

In the second photo, I simplified my background with my lighting. I knew that because her back was much closer to the window than her background, the background would fall away to black. 

TIP: If you want to simplify your background but you cannot get everything out of the frame, look at your light and put your subject in the brightest part of the frame to give focus to them. 

Second composition basic is: The rule of thirds and avoiding the deadpan middle.

The rule of thirds is the design rule that basically tells you to break up your frame into thirds horizontally and vertically and to place your points of interest within the frame on one of those lines or intersections.

The eye naturally goes to one of the rule of thirds lines and does not naturally go straight to the middle of the frame. The rule of thirds can create more balance within the frame and can make your composition more dynamic and interesting.

Here are some examples of how I used the rule thirds in my composition during a portrait session:

TIP: Notice how in this first frame I placed my subject on the left side of the dividing lines. I did this because he is facing the right. This gives him looking space. Looking space gives breathing room for a subject who is looking to the side of the frame and allows the viewer to follow where the subject is looking. 

Learning how to frame your images in ways that make your points of interest interact with one another can be powerful with photography. Great photographers have total control over their frame. They know how the viewer will enter the frame and they know how the viewer will leave. 

Understand the basics of composition and know them like the back of your hand. Then, push yourself to be creative. With limitation comes creativity.

Take one of these rules and apply it to every single photograph you take one day.

  • Simplify the background of all of your photos and see how much more compelling your images will be.
  • Turn on your grid on your viewfinder and place every element of your frame on one of the rule of thirds lines.

By thinking about each element of composition as you photograph, I guarantee you you will begin to see a difference in your photos and I think you will like the result.

The most important rule about composition: Be intentional. Have power over your photos. Frame them exactly how you want them. Then, you can start breaking some of these rules (for a later post).

This is a condensed version of my weekly newsletter. If you aren't signed up you missed out on me talking about the use of layers in your composition!

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