Project Description

Improving Composition

There are many so called ‘rules’ of composition and most of them are valid but in my opinion are there to be broken. I do not intend to go in to detail about composition, but I am going to offer a few suggestions as to how you can improve the composition of your work hopefully to the point where you do not really need to think about it. It becomes second nature, you become one with your camera and the composition of your shot.

I will give you a few simple rules to guide you.

1. Shoot with the rule of thirds in mind
2. Shoot depth – foreground, middle ground, background as a minimum
3. Use leading lines to accentuate perspective
4. Shoot from high, low, unusual angles

One of the best ways to allow composition ideas to permeate is to study other photographers work, but from the viewpoint of looking at the way they have used placement of the different elements in the scene. In fact, it need not even be photography that you study.  Go to an art gallery or a museum. Observe the paintings and spend time on those that grab you.  See how they use all the compositional ‘rules’ to capture your attention, to draw you in to the image and to tell the story of the subject. It’s all there in everything you see.  Look for it hard enough, learn what it looks like and try to emulate it in the shots you take.

Take fewer pictures
Think more. For this exercise you do not even need to click the shutter, just view the shots and practice moving to see how this changes the angles within the frame. Watch how different elements of the image come into play depending on your point of view.

Look at lots of photography books
Not necessarily dedicated to street photography but also more general photojournalism, travel and adventure for example. Do not feel intimidated by the masters.  Try to draw lessons from them rather than trying to imitate their work.  Their influence will eventually seep into your work in ways you will not expect or can even define.

Keep a notebook
Some people, me included also find it useful to keep a file or a notebook with ideas for types of photographs or specific subjects or projects. This is invaluable for any photographer. Writing down ideas, whatever they are or how simple they may seem helps to plant them in your mind so your subconscious can go to work. Sometimes you might come up with a new idea from combining something you jot down with another that you had been mulling over for months or even years. The process of cross fertilisation often makes a simple idea seem more viable. Maintaining a file of these ideas keeps them from vanishing from your memory.

If you have found this interesting, all I ask is that you tell your friends and spread the word through your social media channels, and please consider making whatever donation you can to a fund created to help photographers around the world dedicate time to interesting and often essential projects.

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