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Photography for Beginners-Composition

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'm starting a series called Photography for Beginners. I've taken two photography classes - one in college and one with local photographers. I've been practicing and improving my photography for 6 years, so I've come up with this series to pass along some of the things that I've learned.
When I took my photography class in college I only used a point and shoot camera. I didn't get an SLR camera until about 2 years ago. Most of the photos in this post were taken with my point and shoot camera. It is possible to get amazing images with a point and shoot camera or your cell phone, but you need to understand composition to get those great images, which is what I'm focusing on in this post. My college photography class focused on composition and I'm sharing a few of those tips here.

1. Put your subject off center in the frame aka, The Rule of Thirds. If your break apart your photo in three pieces, you'll get four intersecting points. By placing your focus at one of these intersecting points, you will create more interest in your photos.

*the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera

2. Use leading lines. This helps move the eye through the image. In the image below, I used the lines from the pergola to draw the eye to The Biltmore mansion.

3. Texture and Details. In the two examples below the texture adds visual interest. When you're photographing, think about the details of the image. The first photo is The Marble House in Newport, RI, instead of taking a straight on photo of the mansion, I looked at the details of the mansion.
*the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera
Capturing texture in an image makes the photo appear more 3-dimensional. In the photo below, you can almost feel the weathered surface of the wood. Texture can create a more dramatic photo.
*the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera

4. Framing.
I like to use plants and trees to frame the main subject, which I did in the photo below of The Chrysler Building.
*the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera
You can also use your surroundings to create a frame around your subject. In the photo below I shot through a doorway to frame the buildings.

5. Create depth. This is very easy to do. Instead of photographing objects all on the same plane (imagine a group of people all lined up shoulder to shoulder), you want to have objects in the foreground and background. In the example below, I could have shot the skyline of Boston (which would have been boring), but having the boats in front of the skyline adds more depth to the image.
 *the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera

5.a. Depth of field. Shooting with a wide aperture (small number) blurs the background in your photo, which creates depth. You actually DON'T need an SLR camera to achieve this affect (although it is easier). Point and shoot cameras have different settings that will give you some background blur. Look for a little symbol that either looks like a profile of a woman's face or a small flower (usually a tulip). I took the photo below with my point and shoot "small flower" setting.

6. Staggering objects. I rarely shoot an object straight on because it's very rudimentary and doesn't give any visual interest. I try to move my body or my camera so the objects are all at different angles or staggered. For the pumpkin photo I moved the pumpkins around so that they were no longer all in a row. For the courthouse photo on the right, I moved to the side of the building and pointed my camera upwards. Both these photos were taken with my point and shoot camera.

7. Change your viewpoint/Move your body. Most beginners tend to stand up straight  and hold their camera at eye levels. You can get much more dynamic photos if you move your body. Sometimes I stand on park benches to take photos. Sometimes I lay on the ground. In the photo below, I crouched down to get a different viewpoint.  
*the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera

8. Change your viewpoint/Move your camera. Instead of only looking at objects at your eye level, look up. You can get really interesting photos and angles by pointing your camera up or shooting down on an object. In this example, I pointed my camera upwards to get this different perspective on a light in a lighthouse.
 *the photo above was taken with my point and shoot camera

9. Take portraits from above. It's extremely unflattering to take portraits while shooting upwards. No one wants a photo of their nostrils. Whatever body part is closest to the camera, tends to look largest. When you shoot upwards, you can end up making the person look much larger than they are in real life. Whenever possible, it's much more flattering to take portraits at eye level or above the subject. People tend to look thinner when you shoot from above. In the photo below, the model was sitting in chair, so that automatically puts me (the photographer) above the subject.

For this family photo, I stood on a stepstool to avoid the dreaded "up the nostrils" shot.

10. Use odd numbers. This is actually a decorating rule that I follow, but it also works for photography. In decorating, it's best to group objects and vignettes in groups of 3 or 5. This gives your eye a "middle" to focus on. Although it seems more likely for even numbered objects to provide balance, the opposite is true. Having that middle space with groups of 3 or 5 provides a place of rest for your eyes.

Linking up with:

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11 Responses to “Photography for Beginners-Composition”

  1. These are such great tips, thanks so much for sharing them! I've been trying to improve my photography skills and I never thought about some of the good points that you brought up. I will definitely try those out and hopefully my photos will improve :)

  2. These are great tips! I will be pinning this.

  3. These are great, Rebecca - thank you! I have a DSLR and have NO CLUE that I'm doing. Already pinned it :)

  4. Love all the tips, Rebecca! And that fall season photo with the orange chair is beautiful!

  5. Thanks for the tips! I received a brand new camera for my birthday in April, and still am learning how to use it! I can't wait to read the rest of your series :o) xo

  6. Thanks Meg! I'm glad this helped!

  7. My photography improved when I started understanding composition and that was way before I had a nice SLR camera. Hope this helps!

  8. I'm so jealous of that chair! I think she found it on the side of the road!

  9. Thanks Ashley! It look me a while to learn my camera too! The number of buttons was intimidating to me!

  10. You've always had a good eye. The family portrait is especially beautiful. I would say that your photos look as if a professional took them.


Comments make my day! You can also email me: RenovatingRebecca (at) gmail (dot) com