Creative photography: how to think beyond the obvious with composition

Creative photography: simple ways to think beyond the obvious with your compositions

Break the rules and add variety and interest to your images! In this tutorial we show you how thinking beyond the obvious with your compositions leads to more creative photography.

Creative photography: simple ways to think beyond the obvious with your compositions

All images and words by Mark Hamblin

The old adage “Rules are there to be broken” applies as much to photographic composition as it does to many other things in life. But you need to fully understand the basic rules of composition before you can intentionally break them.

Whole books have been written about the compositional ‘rules’ you should follow to create a well-balanced picture. Some of those most commonly practised include the rule of thirds, lead-in lines, natural frames, a sense of scale, use of foreground interest and a single focal point.

Many successful images employ one or several of these compositional rules. However, there’s nothing to stop you throwing the rule book out of the window and creating equally powerful images.

One of the most-cited compositional rules is to imagine the frame divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and then place the subject or main focal point on one of the intersections where the imaginary lines cross.

This is how a lot of images are composed – but sometimes, placing the subject centrally in the frame can lead to a stronger image.

This is particularly true if the subject is symmetrical in some way, such as a person or animal looking down the barrel of the lens, or a landscape plus its reflection.

SEE MORE: The 10 Rules of Photo Composition (and why they work)

The third way
An alternative use of the rule of thirds is to apply it in a way that the viewer isn’t expecting. For example, rather than placing the subject on one of the lower thirds of the frame with space above, place it higher up in the frame on one of the upper thirds. This creates an unusual balance to the picture and can add extra emphasis to the main subject.

This can be further enhanced by using a technique of differential focus, where only the subject is sharp, with a large expanse of foreground as well as the background blurred out.

Similarly, try breaking the rule of thirds in landscape images by composing the scene with only a slither of sky at the top of the frame rather than the usual third. This works well when there is little interest in the sky.

You can also do the opposite by including just a thin strip of land at the bottom of the picture with a wide expanse of dramatic sky.

Done successfully, breaking with conventional composition has the ability to surprise the viewer and force us to look more closely at a picture.

SEE MORE: How to compose a photograph – start seeing images where you never saw them before

Creative photography tips for better compositions

Get down
Another simple way to achieve this is to shoot from an unusual angle or perspective. One way is to shoot close-ups using a wide-angle lens. This distorts the appearance of the subject closest to the camera, causing it to appear to out of proportion.

An extension of this approach is to shoot from a low angle, looking up at your subject, as opposed to the more usual way of shooting square-on or at eye level.

When shooting trees or tall buildings, for example, this approach exaggerates their height and converging lines, making the subject look far more imposing.

PAGE 1: Creative photography tips to try right now
PAGE 2: How to break free from your rut for more creative photography
PAGE 3: Be creative with focusing
PAGE 4: Final tips for more creative photography


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