Creative Composition in Digital Photography

The difference between a good photographer and a great photographer is creative composition. Knowing the what, where, and how of composition will put you ahead of your peers and help you create a dynamic image every time.

The best images aren’t taken by accident. They’re carefully composed before the shutter button is pressed.

composition setup

By carefully selecting and positioning your subject matter in a composition you will be able to create a successful image every time. Here’s how.

1. Visualize your image

Know what you want in your image before taking it. Composition is not luck or chance. You rarely shoot a great photo by chance. By considering what you want in your image and placing it according to the rules you’ll be able to repeat great images all the time.

2. Choose the right subject matter

When visualizing a scene there are always several possibilities for a subject and related elements in the photos. By choosing the right subject for a particular image you will create the perfect image. The right subject for the right scene will create the right photo.

composition photo

3. Select the right focal point

It is essential when choosing a subject to place it on a focal point that creates interest in the image. This is the area that draws the eye of the viewer into the photograph. This focuses the eye on the part of the photo you want to emphasize. There may be several possibilities but choosing the right one will create the best possible image.

4. Choose the best format

Most photos are shot in landscape or horizontal format but try turning the camera to see a portrait format could work better. In between the two is a 45 degree angle which makes an image dynamic with the diagonal lines created by the tilted view.

creative composition ideas

Photo by Texas Tongs; ISO 200, f/9.0, 1/15-second exposure.

5. Watch the background

A busy background can be distracting and detract the eye from a perfect subject and overall composition. Use a shallow depth of field to blur out a busy background. Plain backgrounds always work well in an image, so look for the best background before creating the composition

leading lines in photography composition

“Up” captured by Paško Tomić

6. Lines lead the eye within the image

Although you have a great subject and overall good composition placed on an interesting focal point, you still need something more: lines. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and converging. If you can place your subject on a focal point at the end of a line, such as a shape or a curve, it will lead the eye to that point of interest. By directing the eye within an image you will create a much more dynamic photo.

creative photography compositon

Photo by Giuseppe Milo; ISO 400, 1/60-second exposure.

Composition is king when creating photos, and a successful overall composition will result in a stunning photograph, which is what we all want achieve. Putting just these six steps into practice regularly will help you see a dramatic improvement in the resulting photos. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video, he is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.

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