Introduction to Composition

Introduction to Composition

Composition! Scary to some, natural to others. The foundation of every great image. 

Composition is arguably the most important ingredient in any photograph. I say arguably to avoid arguments. It is the most important ingredient, or so I’ve heard. Don’t be mean to me please. Anyway….I digress! Let’s see how we can improve it. Here’s some tips and tricks to help improve your composition. Remember these are just guidelines, feel free to interpret and use them as you see fit! 

Leading Lines:

Leading lines are basically invisible paths that help to direct the eye into or around the image. They take many forms. They can be solid lines in the landscape like boardwalks, walls or fences but can also be less obvious lines like rivers, hedges and branches. They often start at the bottom or sides of the image and point into the middle or towards the subject. You don’t always see leading lines, as in they aren’t always a prominent part of the image, but your brain will always notice them and draw the eye in. Sometimes they aren’t even in sharp focus but they can still work their magic. The power of a leading line should never be underestimated. They can often make or break an image.  

Foreground interest:

Foreground interest is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s something in the foreground of the image that creates interest. This stuff writes itself, so handy! But there is more to it I suppose. 

Foreground interest doesn’t always have to be interesting, pretty or even in focus. Yup. Photography ladies and gents! It’s job is to act as an anchor to send the eye on it’s way into the image. A lot of the time the foreground interest is itself a leading line too, you can combine these tips for maximum effect you see. How handy is that! Foreground interest is a lot more powerful than you would think. 

Try to utilise it in all of your images, especially those taken on ultra wide angle lenses. 

The grass in the foreground isn't in sharp focus, it isn't particularly pretty either. But it serves as an anchor point that sends the eye into the image

Perspective

How many times have you arrived at a location and instantly pulled your tripod out to maximum height.

It’s something a lot of people do starting out, but it can also be bad for your images. We’re all used to seeing things from eye level. We walk around looking at things from that perspective every day!

When you arrive at a scene next time keep your tripod on its lowest level. Find some foreground interest/leading line/both and line up your shot. This lower perspective will give height to trees and mountains and stretch your foreground out to create interest. It will also help add interest to your sky.

Get Low!! This perspective created cool foreground interest with the tree root. They also act as leading lines linking with the foot prints pushing the eye to my subject in the background.

Fill the Frame:

When I first started out I kept trying to include everything I could in my shot. This wasn’t the right train of thought at all! I was filling my images with too much empty space and making them far too busy for the eye to enjoy. Too much sky, 5 different things in the foreground and 3 subjects in the midground.

Same location, same settings, same time and same processing. Only difference is composition. I bet I know which one you prefer! 

Simplicity is key!

Composition! Scary to some, natural to others. The foundation of every great image.

Have one bit of foreground interest, get close to it and fill the frame. Zoom in tight on your subject, you don’t need to whole top third to be sky, unless the sky is the subject of course. 

Try keep one subject and compose around it, have your leading lines come from your foreground interest straight to the subject. 

So there’s the tips! If you’ve any questions hit me up on the socials, or leave a comment below. Especially suggestions for subjects you want to see. 

Thanks for reading!

Ronan Harding Downes

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