Simple Steps for Creating Better Photo Compositions

It’s easy to get caught up in technical details and Photoshop tricks, but sometimes we all need a reminder to get back to basics. Photographer Joshua Cripps has some great tips on how to get better results in your photography by paying attention to composition in the following video:

Cripps explains that for many people, “composition is the most inexplicable part of photography.” Sometimes it’s a major challenge to figure out how to achieve a fantastic shot versus a photograph that makes you go “meh…” So what’s the best approach here?

Simplicity is Key

Cripps has a simple credo: figure out what you like, and fill the frame with it! The world is a complicated place, and every scene is full of endless photographic possibilities.

overly complicated photo composition

A beach scene yields a myriad of potential photographic subjects.

Your job before pointing the camera and hitting the shutter button: simply stop and look at your surroundings. Identify what you think is awesome in the scene, and then point your camera at it and click away. If you see a bunch of different things worth looking at, take a bunch of different photographs. Don’t try to cram all of the little things into one shot—you’ll have greater impact by establishing a focal subject.

simple photography composition

A single, simple main subject can be captivating.

Cripps emphasizes that simpler subjects can have a greater impact. The best photos are often the simplest ones, as in the beach scene above. Try focusing on a single main subject, or a single idea, such as the relationship or contrast between subjects:

use contrast in photo compositions

The focus in this photograph is the contrast between foreground and background subjects.

If you’re having trouble identifying a subject, pay attention to what your eyes are doing. Is there something in the scene that repeatedly draws your eye? Take some photos of it. It really can be that simple.

More Zoom Legs, Less Zoom Lens

It’s easy to try to zoom in (if you’re using a zoom lens) and to forget that you can often do a better job of framing an image by getting physically closer. Walk a little! Most of us are outdoor photographers because we love the outdoors—try getting closer to things, and you may be pleased with the results.

beach scene photo

The original beach scene has too many footprints for the photographer’s liking.

get in close for better photo composition

Stepping closer yields a nicer shot.

The Essentials of Photography Composition

Cripps says that getting better composition comes down to three basic concepts:

  1. Identify the good stuff (the subjects that interest you).
  2. Get closer to your subject (zoom legs, not zoom lens).
  3. Eliminate undesirable elements in the frame by moving around.

“Even if you never learn anything else about compositional theory, you’ll find your photos leaping off the page at you!”

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