Make Your Pictures Stunning - Composition

Last week, I discussed how lighting can make or break a shot. This week I will discuss composition.

Background Clutter

When shooting portraits remember to check the background for clutter. There’s nothing worse than a tree growing out of someone’s head!

Leading Lines

Use leading lines to draw viewers into your photograph, whether it’s leading them to an object, person or horizon.

Leading lines.

Leading lines.

Leading lines don't have to be straight either.

Curved leading lines.

Curved leading lines.

Rule of Thirds

All cameras have a grid you can use as an overlay on the viewfinder (or phone screen) which lets you use the ‘Rule of thirds’ for a more pleasing composition. Basically it means using the top or bottom line on the grid for your horizon and placing interesting features at an intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines.

Rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds.

Foreground Interest

In landscape photography using an image with something in the foreground makes for a more interesting photograph and captures viewers attention and leads their eye into the photograph.

Foreground interest.

Foreground interest.

But remember, rules are made to be broken!.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” - Ansel Adams

Make Your Pictures Stunning - Lighting

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” - Dorothea Lange

I always have a camera with me so that I never miss a photo opportunity. Photography is all about light and composition so that no matter what camera you use - phone camera, point-and-shoot or DSLR, some basic photography tips apply across the board. Today we will discuss lighting and other tips will be discussed in future blogs.

Photograph was taken with a phone camera.

Photograph was taken with a phone camera.

Light

Window Light

With indoor portraits you don’t need expensive lighting equipment if there is a window nearby. Sitting your subject in diffused window light is one of the most flattering ways to light a portrait.

Window-lit portrait

Window-lit portrait

Also when shooting directly into the sun use Fill-in Flash to brighten your subject. This technique works well any time the background is significantly brighter than the subject you are photographing.

Golden Hour

Shooting in the ‘Golden Hours’ of dawn and dusk makes for the best landscape photographs, but it also makes for great portraits.

Portrait at sunset.

Portrait at sunset.

Exposure Compensation

Try and avoid the harsh light of the midday sun. Overcast and stormy skies produce dramatic landscapes but you might need to use Exposure Compensation to compensate for the lack of light. All cameras have Exposure Compensation, even your phone camera, and learning how to use this is probably one of the best ways to improve your photographs. You use this to increase the exposure (in dark situations) or decrease the exposure (in bright situations) The Exposure Compensation slider on a phone camera is usually found by pressing and holding the screen till a small sun symbol and a slider appears. On a DSLR or compact camera there is usually a dedicated button or dial with the +/- symbols next to it.

Angela Freeman moved with her family from Scotland to the USA in July of 2010 and has been working freelance as a graphic designer, photo editor, photographer and web designer since then. In Scotland, she worked in the printing and design industry from more than 30 years. She produced and designed promotional materials, stationery, photographed library events and worked as a team member of the marketing department to promote the East Ayrshire Local Government Library Service.