First camera crash course: simple solutions for mastering your new DSLR

First camera crash course: simple solutions for mastering your new DSLR

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: Avoid the common composition mistakes

The best way to approach how you compose your shots is to think about what you’re trying to communicate to people about the scene or subject you’re shooting.

Don’t just take a ‘record’ of whatever’s in front of you, think about what’s the most interesting part of the scene to focus on, zooming in or out if necessary.

A classic compositional mistake, when taking portraits, is to try and get the whole scene and the person in shot. The result is a terrible ‘tourist’ photo that leaves the person too small and insignificant in the frame.

Better to take a wide shot of the scene, and then a tighter shot focusing on your subject. Also use depth of field to convey what’s important to show – or a shallow depth of field to blur parts of the scene, such as the background behind subjects, to keep the focus on them.

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: Avoid the common composition mistakes

Zoomed out

  • With the subject plonked in the centre of the frame and with no clear focal point, the eye is left to wander around the frame
  • Although a wide aperture of f/4 was used, the background objects are still too much in focus, and are off-putting

 

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: zoom in for more impact

Zoomed in

 

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: using portrait format

Vertical / portrait format

  • Place the horizon either a third of the way up or a third of the way down the frame for a dynamic composition
  • Use leading lines (whether natural or man-made) to draw the eye in and towards your focal point – the mountains in this shot

 

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: using landscape format

Horizontal / landscape format

  • Remember to create a relationship between foreground elements and focal points further away on the horizon
  • Getting down low will help prevent too much empty middle ground spoiling your shot

Final tip
Shoot in Live View and use the grid display so you can quickly apply the ‘rule of thirds’ over your scene or subject to improve your compositions.

First Camera Crash Course Lesson 1: Aperture explained
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 2: using exposure compensation
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 3: How shutter speeds work
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 4: Fast vs Slow shutter speeds
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 5: How to focus and stay sharp
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 6: Choosing your AF points
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 7: How to get your subjects sharp
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 8: Avoid the common composition mistakes
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 9: Using the Rule of Thirds
First Camera Crash Course Lesson 10: Anatomy of your viewfinder

READ MORE

Camera Angles: 5 ways to add impact with unusual perspectives
Composing pictures with foreground interest: simple ways to draw in the eye
Shape Photography: how to balance your compositions and when to break the rules
How to get photo composition right every time