Photo tips: composition

By Mark Watson | September 21, 2012

Photographer Mark Watson gives us tips on creative composition.

ONCE AGAIN YOU SHOULD get creative. Too many photos are taken from a standing position when a slight alteration will change a photo dramatically.

Lay down, climb a tree, shoot from a rooftop! Think about space.

A large empty sky will portray vastness while a horizon at the top of the frame forces you to look to the foreground.

You can use viewpoint, angle and scale to enhance an image dramatically. A good photographer is always looking for unique angles.

Composition in photography

Here are five basic rules of composition to assist you:

1. Rule of thirds – The rule of thirds is a timeless rule, as relevant today as it ever was.

The idea is to divide your frame into thirds and use the imaginary intersecting lines as point of reference for placement of your subject.

This is to avoid all images having the subject and horizon in the middle.


2. Straight horizon
– If you are shooting a wide photo or landscape, check and then double check your horizon is straight. Nothing ruins a perfect landscape like an angled horizon.

This is doubly important when you have an angled foreground as you tend to compose for the foreground and forget the horizon.


3. Recompose
– When shooting portraits in particular, focus the subject, lock that focus and then recompose by angling the camera down slightly.

Too many portraits are taken with the subject’s face in the middle of the frame, their feet chopped off and a large empty sky above their head.


4. Dutch tilt
– The Dutch tilt is the opposite of a straight horizon and is used mainly in portraiture and action photography. In this scenario you can deliberately tilt the camera slightly (10-25 degrees) to create a dramatic effect. The Dutch tilt however, is rarely used on landscape photos and generally only used when the horizon is hidden.


5. Hyperfocal distance
– A hint for landscape photography is a rule based on hyperfocal distance. The rule is to focus 1/3 of the way through the frame using the smallest possible aperture (f22) if you want your entire scene in focus.

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