What is composing or composition?
To compose your photo is sometimes a difficult task, but it is the basis of every single shot you take. So what does that mean anyway?
Well the dictionary definition is as follows: v. 1. To write or create. 2. To make or form by combining things, parts, or elements.
In human terms it is how your photo “looks” or “comes together.” Basically when someone looks at your image, do they see bright shining faces or do they see only half of a dark shadow of a person with a chair protruding from his head from the other side of the room.
DOES ANYONE HAVE ANTLERS OR IS THAT JUST A TREE BEHIND THEM?
Each time you are about to click that shutter, or push that iPhone button, check your entire image for everything you want and nothing you don’t. After you do this for several days, months or years, it will become second nature. And as in my case, to the dismay of my subjects…as I move steadily around them in search of the perfect light, or repositioning them to eliminate a big blank space between two brothers that hate each other at the moment, as they moan and groan to “just take it.”
Don’t just take it!
It is very rare that I just snap a photo without thinking. Even when I am photographing a plate of food at Disneyland to show the family, I have to eliminate that extra fork, or the salt shaker that is in the way, etc.. It gets to be unnerving to some, and my daughter has not gotten the hang of it quite yet as she just snaps away and deletes them later (which by the way, is the greatest and worst thing about digital cameras).
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Okay, so now what?
You may be asking, so what should I be looking for when I am “composing?” Well, each photo is different, but here are a few elements to remember.
1. Check your lighting
- You can use bright sunlight, also called natural light.
- You can use cloud covered sunlight, or shaded light.
- You can use misdirected natural light, like from a window.
- You can use a flash on or off your camera, also called artificial light.
2. Catch lights
These can help you a lot with your lighting. (Catch lights are those spots of light in your subjects eyes to show you where the light is hitting their face(s).)
What's all this talk about subjects?
3. Rule of Thirds
Centering your subject is not always very interesting or pleasing to the eye. Which is why photographers use what is called the Rule of Thirds.
Imagine a tic-tac-toe board, then place your subject on one of those lines or intersections.
4. Fill your frame.
Zoom in or move around to get rid of distractions. Delete everything from your image that would draw the eye away from your subject. When you look at this photo of the cat, your eye goes to the chili bowl naturally. So eliminate it, unless that is what you were going for, and in that case, remove the cat. But if it is just not possible to eliminate the distraction. Move in closer, or edit out that chili bowl after you get the shot.
If you would like to see a specific photography topic or have questions about photography, leave a comment below.
UPDATE* I have had several people ask me about recommended reading for beginners. I have always told my students after you read your camera's owners manual you need to read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It is an excellent source of information.