Composition - A Beginner's Guide To Composing Great Photographs

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

By David Wheater

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Here are a few brief tips on composing great shots and injecting a little emotion into them. Knowing a few basic rules of composition can help, but never stop using your own intuition, which is often your best guide.


MOOD


Think about the overall mood of your photos. Try to always give your work a deliberate, consistent mood.


THINK FIRST – SHOOT SECOND


A good picture is made not taken. The difference between a good photographer and a bad one is the amount of thought they put into a picture – before picking up their camera. Stand and study your subject in detail. Walk around it 360 degrees and always consider the angles and the quality of light falling on it - is the light soft or hard, diffused or harsh? Always ask yourself what is beautiful or interesting around you and how you can capture the essence or soul of your subjects - whether an object, person or animal.


TELL A STORY


After studying your subject carefully, do not take a photo unless it has meaning to you. Always think about what you’d say about the picture if you were describing it to a stranger. Will you be able to tell a good story about your picture? Is there emotion behind your picture?


STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR CAMERA


The camera you have will never be more important than what you aim it at. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an expensive camera will instantaneously improve your pictures. Entry level DSLRs are now so good that your choice of camera isn’t as important as it once was. How you compose your subjects is far more important than your technical ability.


CHECKLIST FOR COMPOSING A SHOT


1. What is this picture for?

2. What’s interesting or beautiful about this scene?

3. What is it about this scene that I really want to capture?

4. Does it tell a story?

5. Is there anything I should hide?

6. Is this the background I want?

7. Will I have room to crop this?

8. Should