Beginner photography tips: common mistakes with composition and framing
Unlike the more technical aspects of photography such as exposure or focusing, choosing how to compose and frame your shots is as much about personal choice as being right or wrong. Despite this, there are ways to improve the composition of your images. The classic habits to break are putting the main subject in the centre of the frame, and not getting close enough to the subject.
Simple tips for composing a photograph
Below we’ll show you a couple images that don’t quite work for a number of reasons, and then slightly different versions of each that do.
Including subjects at the edge of the image
You need to watch out for areas of the subject, especially at the edge of the frame, which draw attention away from the main subject. Before you press the shutter, try looking all around the frame for anything that doesn’t help the composition.
Shooting with a wide-angle lens means that you will often include a large area of the foreground. So you should look out for interesting subjects or textures to make the most of this area of the image.
Horizon in the middle of the frame
Placing the horizon in the middle of the image is generally not recommended. It produces two equal-sized areas and makes the whole image appear static. Positioning the horizon around a third from the top or bottom of the frame produces a better composition.
Horizon isn’t straight
If the horizon is clearly visible in the scene it should generally be horizontal. Getting the horizon precisely level using the viewfinder can be tricky. Many cameras offer a grid display in Live View mode or an electronic spirit level option to help you.
Using some simple composition rules such as placing the main elements off-centre produces a much stronger image
Subject too small in the frame
Unless the area around the subject adds something to the image – such as showing the environment or landscape around it – you’ll get a stronger image by filling the frame with the main subject.
Image too cluttered
While a strong subject can help to produce striking images, if there are too many subjects or points of interest in your image, they can actually detract from the impact of the shot. So try including less of the background, or blurring it by using shallow depth-of-field.
Subject in the middle of the frame
Similar to placing the horizon in the centre, positioning the main subject in the middle of the image creates a very static, uninteresting composition. It’s usually better to shift the position to one side if shooting horizontally, or up or down on vertical images.
Getting closer to the subject, or using a longer lens, produces a much simpler, more striking image
PAGE 1: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with setting up your camera
PAGE 2: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with exposure and colour
PAGE 3: Beginner photography tips – common problems with focus and sharpness
PAGE 4: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with composition and framing
How to compose a photograph: start seeing images where you never saw them before
Rule of Thirds: use it and break it with confidence
Leading lines: photography’s most underrated composition device
How to get composition right every time you shoot