Composition Tips for Good Photography

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

I think these simple, yet very powerful tips were excellent points to think about when taking a photo. I struggle with composition more than anything else. I finally learned the technical aspects of lighting, depth of field, focus, etc., but composition is hard for my left dominant, non-creative brain.

http://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/7-musts-of-great-composition-in-photography/

If you know of any good composition tips, please share them here.

Patti

Talihina, OK

Patti I was priviledged to have a great teacher in a man by the name of Dr.Alver Olsen Phd.was a wonderful photographer from the B&W era who did some wonderfull work taking pictures of many of the WW 2 refugees...so will be very please to pass along a few things I remember from my all too short time spent with Dr.Olsen One of his favorite sayings was "now that is a nice spot for a picture too bad you just have the spot and not an aminate object in there" meaning that he thought people were very important to add some perspective...Another thing he didn't like was a picture divided in to halves by the horizon in the center of the picture this is about all that I can type at any time as I start making too many mistakes if this helps in any way please let me know and I will pas along a few more tips along with some pix as an illustration

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Grits, Very interesting ideas! Thanks much for contributing and I would love to see more. I have read the tip regarding the horizon in the center and I try to put it off center. But, I hardly ever put people in my photos. That one was quite a surprise. I usually do just the opposite - try to avoid people in my photos. LOL.

Talihina, OK

Kinda messed up here but we will see Dr. olsen would have liked this picture but would have critisized it for being backwards he would have preferred to se it reversed so that you eye would naturally moved from left to right as that is how we are taught to read but the gently curving path is a nice elemant

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Talihina, OK

here is a pic that has almost everything wrong with it the subject is too centered the horizon is centered and slightly crooked and the water at the bottum can spill out of my picture and it has been cropped into a square format whereas it should have been left in a wider image ,plus I really like the picture but I am now looking at it thru the eyes of a judge which makes me see a lot of the errors and for that I thank you ,as this discussion is making me think about doing better for my own photos

Thumbnail by grits74571
Rochester, MN

I have a question about the picture above. I can see the horizon slightly crooked and a touch of foreground would have been nice. I was wondering how the rule of thirds would play into a picture like that. I see the sky, mountain w/relection and then the water pretty well divided.

Talihina, OK

Very nice Niceguy and like I said only incuded the pic as an example of a nice snapshot but a lousy picture from the stand point of composition I don't think the rule of thirds applies because there is two pictures not one and looked at from that angle just don't see the rule of three being present

Talihina, OK

Here is a pic with the rule of three shown in the Sky ,mountain ,desert then again in the three columns of steam and has the human element working as we know there must be humans working there ,But remembering some of my Co-workers the last statement is questionable LOL

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Rochester, MN

I didn't mean to sound critical of the picture or anything. I really don't see why you consider it a 'lousy picture from the stand point of composition'. These are pretty much the same.
http://www.google.com/search?q=mountain+lake+reflections&hl=en&qscrl=1&nord=1&rlz=1T4ADFA_enUS389US427&biw=911&bih=349&site=webhp&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&ei=WgmTTve3LPKmsALhuIW5AQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CBIQ_AUoAQ

I see the two pictures as divided in the reflection, but I was wondering if the mountain and reflection might not be considered as one (1/3) to help as a guide from having too much sky on the top or too much water on the bottom.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Rule of thirds is just a guide that can help make the scene more interesting.

Look at bullet #7 from the link that P_Edens posted. Break the rules! (Note that the rule of thirds isn't even used in the link?)

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Grits, I like your garden path photo. The path does just pull the eye into the photo. Very nice leading line. I had never thought about the left to right thing. That will be something for me to think about in the future.

I see what you mean on the mountain scene. I also never thought about the water spilling out. That's another good tip for me! Awesome. I agree with Niceguy on the rule of thirds thing though. I think the reflection helps to balance out the composition from top to bottom. The fact that the mountain is centered from left to right doesn't bother me either. I think those rules are meant to be broken at times.

I really like that last one! The colors are beautiful and it is so nicely balanced.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post your photos. They really do get the message across and I appreciate the tips.

Rochester, MN

I wonder if the 'rules' of photography are not somewhat like the 'rules' of grammar. We understand that there are exceptions, but we don't go so far as to say that they are meant to be broken.

Horizons should not be centered... except when...
1. A third element is large/distinct enough to create enough contrast to the seperate two elements.
2. When the two elements above and below the horizon contrast each other enough.

This link has more photos with many horizons centered that to me at least seem correctly composed.

http://www.google.com/search?q=ocean+sunsets&hl=en&qscrl=1&nord=1&rlz=1T4ADFA_enUS389US427&biw=911&bih=349&site=webhp&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&ei=qzOTTtzSCuiDsgKC84C8AQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CBIQ_AUoAQ

Talihina, OK

So now here are a few pix and I will offer no comment but will certainly except comments and criticism This is the only way to really learn..Fly Gysers Northern Nevada ok

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Talihina, OK

Much closer cropped untill only the main subject is visible

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Talihina, OK

A pond of hot water offering some reflections along with great morning light

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Talihina, OK

A second view of the same pond

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Talihina, OK

Okay this one will be all for now it will include the same scenery only with a human subject included

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Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Grits, These are all so beautiful! Where were they taken? I will try to apply what I have learned. Let me know how I do...

1. Gorgeous photo! I think it is balanced nicely from top to bottom with the geyser steam balancing the foreground and the structures in the center third. However, I think it would have been stronger if those structures had been placed more to the left side of the frame somewhat offcenter.

2. I like the idea of moving in close, but I think this one is cropped a little too close on the top and left side. The left side of the frame is cutting through the subject. Wow, what beautiful colors! I would love to see this in person.

3. As far as I can tell, this is perfectly composed and as you pointed out earlier, the water won't spill out of the bottom on this one. ^_^ I love all of the layers here.

4. This is also very lovely with the layers, but I prefer the previous one. One thing that I have learned is that if the sky is not very interesting - either with interesting clouds or a colorful sunrise or sunset, then just include a small sliver of it for a point of reference. I think less of the sky would have been better on this one.

5. I just can't get over how beautiful and colorful this is. As far as the composition, I like it from top to bottom, but I think the structures and the person would have been better if placed off to one side rather than in the center.

You know I agree that it is nice to have a person in some shots for reference, but I hardly ever photograph people. I do photograph animals though, so I hope that counts.

Was I anywhere close to your thoughts?

Patti

Talihina, OK

you are very close to what I was thinking and I didn't take the one of a person in it ,in fact that is me in the picture these are all on private property located near the town of Gerlach Nevada which is on the edge of the Black Rock Desert(think Burning Man) The first picture of the pond is also my favorite of that morning ..Now for a little bit of trivia as we started photographing this place i recieved a message on the view screen that I was running low on storage on my memory card so I instantly reduced the resolution down to the lowest setting and of course was rewarded with another several hundred pix as it also reduced the pixels of all the photos already stored..Bear in mind that we were at least 150 miles from the closest Wally world ...At that point I learned the MP ratings were just window dressing as far as computer pix are concerned send me your addy in a d mail and I think I can send lots more pix at the same time in regular e mail I have litterally hundreds of desert pix

Talihina, OK

Forgot to mention that I did try to reply sooner but ran into a puter glitch and got mad at the thing and turned it off and just now got back to working a little bit here ,worked the last couple of days on a new Day lilly bed so am now worn out so really have no choice but to play on the puter or read so now I think I will read..

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

RE: Grits photo of Oct. 10th. I Photoshopped it a bit to see if you guys thought it was a little better now.

Thumbnail by pbyrley
Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Grits, I sympathize with the computer problems. I love 'em when they work right and want to throw them out the door when they don't. Glad you are back up and running. Too bad that place is on private property. I would love to see that. I guess it is somewhat similar at Yellowstone, but I've never seen anything that beautiful.

pbyrley, I like your crop. Straightening the horizon helps a lot. I think I would have included less of the sky and more of the water, especially all of the reflection since it is more interesting to me than the sky. It would probably put the horizon very close to the center, but I think when there is a reflection, that's okay.

Patti

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks Patti,
I tried several vertical positions and couldn't decide whether I liked more sky or more water. I think I was wanting the cloud at the top left when I settled on the one I posted. As you said, straightening the horizon was the main thing needed.
Paul

Talihina, OK

Here are a couple of more to chew as usual I will make no comment till the end of the session

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Talihina, OK

these are all taking from the same locale Fall River in northern Ca. The snow covered one is Mt. Shasta the other is Soldier Mt so named because Fort Crook was located near the foot of it Ps Fort Crook was at one time Commanded by U.S. Grant

Thumbnail by grits74571
Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

My thoughts ...

I like that first one as it is. I'm sure your instructor would be worrying about all that water escaping. ^_^ I guess if the photographer had gotten lower to the ground, some of the foreground would have been included, but then the guy in the boat would have had the grass on the far shore behind him which would not have been as nice. I guess in a perfect world, the boat would have been off to the right or the guy would have been facing the other direction so he was looking into the frame instead of out. But, I think that's just being picky.

The second one is a lovely, serene image - very tranquil. The only improvement I can think of would have been to get closer if possible or use a longer lens. The mountain and the cows are the subjects, so some of the sky and grass along with a bit of the left side could be cropped out.

This message was edited Oct 24, 2011 9:45 PM

Talihina, OK

Location location location In the first I am between a road and a fence and in the second I am at a fence with no more lens available the next pic I am sending is just from a tripod so I kinda have to guess exactly where I should stand so I am sending it as is and every one can take a stab at cropping or whatever and tomorrow I will send what version I like best

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Talihina, OK

A very old picture with a lot of good things going on too much sky but otherwise pretty good some detail has been lost due to age

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Talihina, OK

I think this would be better with no sky at all

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Here's my best guess at composition for the one on the tripod.

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Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I would cut out the sky, trees, and power lines since they add nothing to the scene.

For some reason I like the fence (goes with the bib overalls) even if it puts the subject smack dab in the middle (breaking the rule of thirds). According to the pros, you should keep the area that the person (or animal) is looking in to, so the stand of cleomes should stay.

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Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Grits, I did try that one first and I also like that gate, but I thought those flowers were the subject, so I zeroed in on them. Good lesson! Thanks for that one.

Talihina, OK

So this is what I liked best i took out the debris on the left because it bothered me as i knew it was just stuff I should have picked up prior to taking the pic

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Talihina, OK

I liked HC's version best it narrowed the focus down to a central point

Talihina, OK

Okay now some comments on the horse picture 1976 This is an old Ektachrome slide let us see what can be done with this ..

Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Oops. I thought the one posted by HC was by Grits. I like both of your crops. The one that HC did was the one that I had thought to do, but then I went vertical.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I took 2 years of photography in college before digital cameras. I had a Canon film camera that was manual. However the rules are still the same. Don't know if it was mentioned or not but a subject, such as a person, should look into the center of the photo, rather then out of it. . A car going along a road, etc. should be taken as it comes into the photo, rather then leaving.

If you are taken a photo of a sunset, then the sky should be more than half the photo. If it is landscape it should be less.

Most of my photos are digital now of flowers since I sell them on Ebay. One thing I never do and that is taken photos of them in the sun. I wait for a cloud cover, or I use my white photography umbrella. Sun bleaches colors and the contrast is too high beween for details to show. A cloudy day is ideal for taking photos due to color saturation achieved.

To show motion in a photo such as a waterfall, use a slower shutter speed and brace the camera to prevent blurriness. It will blur the water to show motion while the rest of the photo will be clear. I most always use a tripod when possible. If not, I lean against my car, tree, or whatever is sturdy. When I take a closeup photo of a flower, use the setting for sport, which is a fast shutter speed, to prevent blurriness, especially on windy days.

It is hard to judge the size of something in a photo. To give an idea, include in the photo an object that is familiar to use as comparison. We all know how large a kid is, or a baseball, coin, etc. The mind will be able to get an idea of the size of the object in the photo you are trying to show.

To focus attention on a specific object, set the camera on portrait. That will blur the background while the foreground remains in focus.

Not always easy to do, but look around for something to frame the photo in, like a branch along the side of the photo.

One last tip, if a photo is worth one picture, it is worth more. Take photos from different angles, experiment. Then edit your photos with a good editing program. Delete those that are not good in your eyes.

One other tip, put your photos in a named folder on your PC. My folders are named, family, irises, daylilies, etc. for easy retrieval. If mountains is your thing, put that name on it.

Too much light will fool the camera to open the shutter thus bleach the photo. Ex. aiming towards a light source such as the sun. We all have gotten photos with the subject underexposed (dark) in silhoutte. Can't move the sun but feet can move.

Most important, have fun doing it.

This message was edited Nov 4, 2011 10:49 PM

Thumbnail by blomma
Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

On the folder thing, I tried the naming thing like you mentioned to begin with ten years ago (example: c:plantsindoor_plantscactus) but after awhile it became evident that it was a real mess. The folders got to be massive and hard to find what I was after. This went on for the first two or three years. I then got it into my head to do everything chronologically (I also noticed that a lot of photo album software does the same thing in their own roundabout way). I created a photos album off the root, then a folder for the year, then 12 folders for each month under each year, and then a daily folder with a slight description of what the photos contained (example: c:photos2011oct30 - fall colors). I try to name each picture with an adequate description but no great detail. Now I can remember a lot of things by the month and year and only sort through a few pictures or a few hundred instead of thousands.


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Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Blomma, Thanks MUCH. Excellent tips. I try to do some of these, but the size one is something I never think to do and there are times when I should.

Quote from blomma :
Most of my photos are digital now of flowers since I sell them on Ebay. One thing I never do and that is taken photos of them in the sun. I wait for a cloud cover, or I use my white photography umbrella. Sun bleaches colors and the contrast is too high beween for details to show. A cloudy day is ideal for taking photos due to color saturation achieved. [/quote]

I do this when I can. If it is very overcast, I will use a gold reflector and get some additional light bounced back on the flower.


Quote from blomma :
It is hard to judge the size of something in a photo. To give an idea, include in the photo an object that is familiar to use as comparison. We all know how large a kid is, or a baseball, coin, etc. The mind will be able to get an idea of the size of the object in the photo you are trying to show.


I will really try to remember this one. I have so many photos that people actually ask," How big is that tree?", etc. It's too late then.


[quote="blomma"]One other tip, put your photos in a named folder on your PC. My folders are named, family, irises, daylilies, etc. for easy retrieval. If mountains is your thing, put that name on it.


I just put mine chronologically. On the folder, I put the date and a descriptor of where I was, for example, 2011-11-02 NewOrleans. Then, using Breezebrowser Pro, I name all of my photos with the camera actuation number and the camera (unique identifier). Breezebrowser picks all that info up. So, an example would be 1055-50d.CR2 which would be the 1055th photo taken with my Canon 50d. This isn't too useful other than to give a unique number to each of my photos in case I ever put them in a database. After I work on them, I add to the name with a descriptor, such as, 1055-50dGBHeron.tif. I also put a lot of keywords in the metadata on each photo (New Orleans, Great Blue Heron, heron, shorebird, etc...) , so I do all of my searches using keywords in Adobe Bridge. But, if I can remember when I took a certain shot - on vacation in Big Bend for example, I just go to the year and month and the Big Bend folders and find them that way. I also put subfolders under my main folders. The main folder holds the raw files, the DEV folder holds the tifs and the JPEG folder holds the jpegs. Works for me.

Thanks again! Much appreciated.


Willis, TX(Zone 8b)

Quote from hcmcdole :
On the folder thing, I tried the naming thing like you mentioned to begin with ten years ago (example: c:plantsindoor_plantscactus) but after awhile it became evident that it was a real mess. The folders got to be massive and hard to find what I was after. This went on for the first two or three years. I then got it into my head to do everything chronologically (I also noticed that a lot of photo album software does the same thing in their own roundabout way). I created a photos album off the root, then a folder for the year, then 12 folders for each month under each year, and then a daily folder with a slight description of what the photos contained (example: c:photos2011oct30 - fall colors). I try to name each picture with an adequate description but no great detail. Now I can remember a lot of things by the month and year and only sort through a few pictures or a few hundred instead of thousands.



I sort of went through the same progression. The only difference with my folder names is that I do one for each day I shoot and what I forgot to mention above is that the daily folders are actually subfolders under a folder for the year. On years where I do a lot of shooting, I might have more than one folder, so a 2010 Photos, and a 2010-2 Photos.

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