Anne Darling Photography

Photography Composition

Good photography composition is the single most important element in your pictures, more important than light, exposure, shutter speed, in fact anything else at all.

I have divided this topic into two sub-topics: the first is about picture composition in general and consists of four separate tips. The second is about portrait composition specifically although I plan to do a section on formal portraiture later on.

Basically there are four photo tips here to help you improve your photograph composition: choosing the best angle; foreground interest; correspondence (my favourite!); and using lines.

Picture composition in art in general needs to be fully understood and practised often before it becomes automatic. These four tips, once you have grasped them fully, will give you a good grounding in the art of creating an interesting photography composition. So let's get started with the first photography tip, choosing the best angle.

Choosing the Best Angle

Photography Composition
Traditional Chinese Game (Photo: Anne Darling)

  • Choosing a different angle from just point-and-shoot can improve your photograhic composition radically.
  • Bending the knees and getting in closer gives a much more intimate feel, as if you were really there.
  • Don't be afraid of 'losing' parts of the picture when you move in more closely as this can make it look more interesting.
  • The fact that the man on the left is in shadow, and his opponent is only half way into the frame, adds a slight edgeyness to the picture even though conventionally the contrast is unbalanced.
  • Compare the above photo with the one below, taken from a higher angle. The game is more clearly seen but we have lost the second person. Which do you prefer?
  • Photograph Composition
    Traditional Chinese Game (Photo: Anne Darling)

    Foreground Interest

    Picture Composition
    Street Vendor, China (Photo: Anne Darling)

  • Including strong foreground interest leads the eye into the picture and creates a strong photographic composition.
  • The strong red colour of the chairs in the foreground of this image captivate the viewers' attention.
  • The upturned chairs are also arranged in such a way that they lead the eye into the centre of the photo.
  • Although the objects are large and quite dominating, because they have a strong abstract qualtiy and lack detail, they do not overwhelm the central action completely.
  • Get as close as possible to the objects in the foreground so that you create a greater sense of depth in the photo.

  • Correspondence

    Photographic Composition
    Street Vendor Selling Trinkets (Photo: Anne Darling)

  • Sometimes you can find a correspondence between two or more elements in a photographic composition which creates a kind of aesthetic pleasure.
  • In the above photo, there is a striking similarity between the hat on thhe girl and the head-gear of the image on the side of the bus, and also between the trinkets and the decoration that hangs from the head-gear.
  • Contrasting elements in a picture are interesting too and in this photo the two faces seems to be opposite to each other - the lady on the left has a down-turned face, while the lady on the right has an up-turned face.
  • The red background which is the side of the bus serves to hold the whole composition together especially as it is echoed in the colour of some of the trinkets.

  • Using Lines

    Photographic Composition
    Young Boy, Inner Mongolia (Photo: Anne Darling)

  • The converging lines in the above photo create depth and draw the viewer into the picture.
  • Converging lines also help to create a sense of distance.
  • The dog is walking away from the viewer which also adds to the sense of being drawn into the picture.
  • The two boys and the dog are slightly separated from each other which enhances the composition and, although it is an informal shot, there is a sense of careful positioning.
  • Although you cannot always choose to position all the elements in your composition, by moving yourself around the scene you can still line things up more to your liking. This takes practice! And the more you practise you more you begin to spot potentially good compositions in advance.

  • Top of Page

    This site is under construction! Major changes are taking place - apologies for any inconsistencies which I hope will all be sorted very soon. Thanks for your patience.

    Improve Your Composition

    cover of the art of photographic composition ebook

    Be More Creative

    cover of the creative guide to photography ebook