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Photo Composition Tips

People photography: composition tips for the versatile portrait photographer

“Always fill the frame with your subject.” – Jason Hawkes

“If there is something distracting in the background, such as a road or a mass of branches, change your position. Move to the left or right, stand on your tiptoes, or even lie down on the ground.” – Suzi Eszterhas

“Look around at what everyone else is doing, and then do something completely different.” – David Clapp

“Camera position is the key, whether it’s a landscape or a person that you’re trying to photograph. Develop a good work ethic too. One cannot be lazy – if you see a hill, climb it. The chances are, the view is better from up there. In the case of people, move around your subject until you find the shot – there is usually an angle where people and their surroundings melt into one and everything clicks.” – Basil Pao (via Photography Week)

“Don’t cram all you can see into one shot. Simple images tend to be visually stronger, and it’s better to concentrate on a small number of key elements.” – Fran Halsall

“For the best compositions, get out of the car and walk.” – Simon Butterworth

“Make sure the subject is big enough in the frame and think about what the subject will do next. Most people want to take 100 shots, but I’ll spend days just working on one frame.” – Bob Martin

“Personally, I think the emotional content of an image is more important than the image being technically perfect. While I do everything I can to achieve a technically sound image, ultimately it’s the atmosphere and ‘story’ of the scene that holds the final image together. I certainly wouldn’t discard an image because it has minor imperfections.” – Antony Spencer

Composition for landscape photography

Less is more: simple landscape composition made simple

“I find the best way of teaching composition is getting people to read the landscape – learning to look at all the component parts and seeing how these parts work. A couple of strong relationships are needed, like that between the sky and the land, so the viewer gets the narrative of the scene. Don’t accept that you’re stuck with the sky that prevails at the time. Keep coming back as the light changes, and think about the sky’s relationship with the land beneath.” – Charlie Waite

“Sometimes you really do need a significant foreground, like the dreaded big boulder, to make an image work, but it should not take over the entire image. Variety is the key, rather than repeating the same idea over and over again. I also try to avoid shooting from the same wide-angle view, which soon become tedious – as does shooting every scene from the same height.” – Fran Halsall

“I try to avoid contrived and self-conscious composition. Images are comfortable with themselves and therefore comfortable with viewers when the elements are allowed to speak naturally for themselves. Milky seas shot with ultra-wide lenses under apocalyptic skies have become ubiquitous and formulaic. I want to explore subjects that have mileage left in them rather than flog an exhausted horse.” – Simon Butterworth

Composition for live music photography

Music photography tips from a professional photographer: make a name for yourself

“The cardinal sins are having the microphone in front of the singer’s face, obviously, or allowing stage clutter such as monitors to get in the way. Don’t be afraid to crop in on guitarists; don’t feel you always have to show the whole guitar. Focus on the face, not the guitar.” – John McMurtrie

Composition for sports photography

“A nice, clean background is essential. The sky can be the best background. You can’t always shoot against this, but distractions will spoil a shot. The opposite applies when taking a panning shot of any sport. Then, you want more colour, more obstacles and people to blur, to give the impression of speed.” – Mark Pain

“You can’t expect to follow a subject through your lens and just happen to compose the perfect shot along the way. Examining the background before you take the shot, then positioning the [subject], will always lead to a better composition.” – Dan Carr

“If I just sit behind the goal, the client will end up with more of the same. When I have to sit in a certain place, I pick my position, background and the composition before I take the shot. I’d rather have less action and better aesthetics and composition. If I get a great shot it’s because the elements are there.” – Bob Martin

Composition street photography

“I compose by what feels right. I might shoot several versions of a scene, sometimes dozens, and I also think about timing. Within the frame, things need to be composed as they happen. Everything is moving about until you take the shot and stop it, and you can’t control these things in another way (I think this is great, or I would have become a studio photographer instead!). The only thing you can do is to take the picture at the right moment, composed in a way that seems right. It is mostly just luck.” – Nils Jorgensen

Composition for portrait photography

“Fill the frame with your subject for maximum impact.” – Lorenzo Agius

“Always make sure the background is clean, with no distractions.” – Lorenzo Agius

Composition for wildlife photography

“The most common mistake is not paying attention to the background… In wildlife photography the backgrounds are just as important as the subject itself – if the background is no good, I often don’t even bother to take the shot. Not paying attention to distractions inside the frame falls into the same category.” – Marsel Van Oosten

PAGE 1: Camera gear – and how to use it
PAGE 2: Photo composition tips
PAGE 3: Exposure tips
PAGE 4: Lighting tips
PAGE 5: Tips for managing your photography workflow
PAGE 6: Tips for selling your photos
PAGE 7: Photography tips for shooting in the field
PAGE 8: Final photography tips to remember

READ MORE

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