5 Points of a Masterpiece – A Basic Composition Guide

composition-guideWhen you press your eye to the viewfinder of your camera, a blank canvas is placed before you. Similar to more traditional artists, you can paint a vertical shot or a horizontal shot. That’s your first decision in basic composition. “Is my subject up and down, or does it go side to side?” If your subject is up and down, you should be holding your camera in a vertical position. Too often people say, “oh, they can crop that later.” Yes, they can. But why let them? This is your masterpiece, why hand them the brush?

Second point to consider . . . how big a print do you want? You do realize of course that different size prints have different proportions. In other words, if a group of ten people just barely fit in your 5×7 print and then someone asks you to make an 8×10 print; someone will be missing or cut in half on the larger print. Giving your subject room on either side so that you can enlarge later is NOT the same as letting the lab make up for your mistakes.

Third point to consider . . . where on the canvas is your subject going to be? Centuries ago, Greek Artists discovered the eye tends to focus on certain points in any given picture. If you divide your picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically, the points at which those lines intersect are the points where most people tend to focus comfortably. This approach is more interesting than a “Bulls Eye” type snap shot. This is commonly referred to as the “Rule of Thirds”.

composition-guide2If you get a nice shot, what usually happens? You frame it and put it on your wall. Why do you frame it? Because it draws attention! In the children’s story “Charlotte’s Webb”, Charlotte concludes that people believe what they see in print. Likewise, people believe if something is framed it must be important. So why wait? When shooting, framing means something in the foreground that sets off, or “Frames” your main subject. Framing helps create a sense of depth by creating opposition. Start framing your shots, while you take them.

The last point in basic composition is . . . if it doesn’t add to the shot, get rid of it! Get closer. Don’t stand twenty feet away and say you’re taking a portrait. If your subject consists of one or two main subjects, they should fill up 80% of that viewfinder, not 20%. This takes us back to the beginning. If you’re shooting one person standing and the camera is in the horizontal position, you’re wasting 80% of your shot. Turn that camera up on edge, step closer, and fill that frame with your subject. Simply put, shoot from the beginning how you want it to look in the end.

About the Author:
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography (better-photo-tips.blogspot.com). As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective. His photo eBook “Your Creative Edge” proves creativity can be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world through his website.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from Gravatar.com!

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever