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Make The Ordinary Extraordinary
  • Sep 3, 2021
  • 3 minutes

Make The Ordinary Extraordinary

Although I tell people that composition is my favorite aspect of photography, the truth is that it is something that comes naturally to me. It still took some trial and error (and guidance from a brilliant mentor) for me to really understand how to use photo composition effectively.  Knowing what kinds of shots are typically considered well-composed can help both beginning and experienced photographers become more critical of their own work and understand why some images "work" while others may not.  A full understanding of photo composition will also help you turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

What Is Composition?

The word composition in photography is most often applied to the positioning of the objects within an image, and also to the arrangement of visual elements such as shapes, lines, and colors. A well-composed image is balanced, pleasing to the eye, and evocative of feeling.

Getting closer or moving further away from your subject or changing your vantage point are great ways to improve a photo's composition.

If you want to take your photography up a notch, learning about photo composition is an important step. It may be helpful to start by identifying some of the composition elements mentioned above.

Lines are straight or curved, and exist in the context of the photo to act as guides for your eye by defining boundaries or leading you through the image. As an example, a line defined by a row of bushes or trees can lead you through a landscape scene. Other lines might be implied--for instance, if you photograph that can help you compose strong images.

The direction in which you point your camera can change your photo's overall tone, mood, tension level, or emphasis. For example, if you point your camera up at the sky or down at a flower, it will create different effects.

Balance is another important photo composition element that can help you produce stronger images. When we speak of balance in photography, we mean the visual weight and proportion of objects and/or negative space relative to one another within an image.

Images with greater "weight" draw the viewer's eye. If you line up three objects -- let's say a large, medium, and small ball -- the smallest element will appear to hold less weight than the larger elements even if it is closer to the camera.

Positive space, which is what your subject occupies, provides visual weight within an image. Negative space (the area surrounding the subject) gives the image balance by providing a contrasting shape to the subject.

Foreground objects help to define depth in an image, which is important for creating a sense of space or distance within your photo. When foreground elements are used effectively in this way, it can be both interesting and visually pleasing.

If you have trouble identifying foreground objects, it helps to first find a distance reference point. Elements that are closer to the camera will appear larger than those that are further away from the camera.

Color provides another important element of photo composition and can greatly affect your images' moods. Warm colors have more energy and tend to evoke feelings of happiness, excitement, or comfort while cool colors have a more calming effect.

When you're learning how to take great photos, try looking at your images from the perspective of the viewer, rather than as simple records of what you saw or experienced.

It can be helpful to imagine that you are explaining your photo to someone who has never seen it before. What would you point out? What makes your photo unique? What is it about your subject that intrigues you the most?

These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself as you begin to look more closely at how color, contrast, and composition can help you convey a deeper sense of meaning and feeling within your images.

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