Six Quick Composition Tips :: Digital Photo Secrets

Six Quick Composition Tips

by David Peterson 5 comments

In a rut with your creativity? It can happen to the most practiced photographers. It is during these times that we need to take a step back and look at what we can do differently. Sometimes all we need is a change of framing or perspective. When we go out with a new goal in mind, we can find all kinds of interesting images to capture. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Look For Interesting Patterns In The Everyday

There’s just something about repeating patterns that captures our collective imaginations. Whenever you find one, take advantage of it. Sometimes you don’t even need an extra subject. The pattern itself is enough to make the image stand out. Buildings are a great source of inspiration when looking for patterns. The windows tend to repeat themselves, and it can create an interesting effect when framed correctly.

Forget About The Background. Think About The Foreground.

A lot of photographers spend all their time looking for interesting backgrounds when they should be looking for interesting things to place in the foreground. This is especially true when you’re taking pictures of landscapes. Without something in the foreground, your viewer doesn’t really have a basis of comparison for understanding the distances involved.

Notice the branches in this photograph. They’re in your face, and that’s a good thing. They pull you into the image and make you feel as though you are hiding in the bushes and looking out over a great expanse. They also give you a sense of scale. Because you can see the twigs up close, you can compare them to the trees in the distance and figure out how you are from them.

Look For Symmetry In Your Surroundings

Symmetry is naturally fascinating because it’s so uncommon. Whenever you find it, make it the centerpiece of the photo. Not everything has to be perfectly symmetrical to set off our sense of wonder. Just have a look at the photo below.

Here, the element that is framing the image (the goggles) is symmetrical, but the rest of the photo isn’t. You still get a sense of symmetry, and the balance of the colors helps it out. Here’s the takeaway. You can usually find symmetry if you’re looking for it.

Balance Your Colors

Try to find patterns of similar colors in a scene. Sometimes a perfect balance of colors is enough to make an image stand out. Have a look at the apples below. A few things are going on. One, there’s an excellent sense of balance between the left, right, and bottom portions. You have two similar colors on each side. When you add in the repeating fruit pattern, you get a truly interesting composition.

Sometimes it’s not about using only one of these tips. You’ll usually find yourself combining many of them into one image.

Tell A Story With Your Image

I just wrote an article on this topic, but it bears repeating. Sometimes the story does all of the heavy lifting for you. As long as you know how to place the actors in their setting, you’ll have a compelling composition. Just remember to pay attention to the rule of thirds and place the actors in one of the four thirds of the scene.

Here’s a pretty compelling image of jealousy. Notice how the two different women occupy two different thirds of the image. The girl in the back is also out of focus, implying that she is being completely ignored. In this photo, the story determines everything in the composition, all the way down to the aperture chosen and the depth of field.

Composition Isn’t Just About Rules

If you get anything from this article, it should be this. Yes, we are always talking about the rules of composition, but really, an interesting composition is simply a new take on the familiar. Sometimes it means finding something that’s already interesting (like a repeating pattern or a symmetrical object) and framing it the right way. Other times, it means creating a story with what you do find.

Hopefully these tips are helping you jump out of your box and get a little more creative.

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  1. Peter Stojanovic says:

    No matter how much you know photography, there's always something new to learn - great article

  2. Tsebo says:

    ...very helpful. Thanks David.

  3. Marina says:

    I really loved this article, I believe that with these tips I will really begin to look at things around me more carefully. David, Thank you!!

  4. Gwyn Blake says:

    you are spot on about telling a story with your pics. I like that!

  5. Rees says:

    Very interesting about concentrating on the foreground of the photo. Never thought of that before. I will be having a play around with this concept.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.