Thursday, May 1, 2008

:ARTICLE: 8 Tips to Better Photo Composition

The International Scrapbooking Association May Newsletter issue went was published today. Like last month, I contributed a photography article to the newsletter.

8 Tips to Better Photo Composition
A huge part of creating a successful scrapbook layout is the photos you choose to use on that page. That’s why photography has become a secondary hobby to most scrapbookers. Last month, I shared with you several tips to improve your photography skills by simply getting to know your camera. This month, we’ll focus on improving your shots through eight composition tricks.

#1 - Use the Rule of Thirds
You’ve probably heard of this principle in reference to designing a scrapbook page (and it’s a great one to follow), but the concept actually began with photography. Imagine a grid, like the one below, dividing your photo. The idea is to have the key elements of your photo off-center and on the lines or, even better, on the intersecting points of the grid…it makes for a much more visually appealing picture.

#2 - Use Leading Lines
You can use many things to create leading lines in your photographs – a road, fence, river…even an airplane wing. If used correctly, these lines help to draw the viewer into the picture and toward the subject. They can also help to create depth in a photo and are often most effective if the leading line begins in a corner of your photo.

#3 - Watch Your Background
We’ve all taken them…the shots of a loved one with a light post sticking out of their head or where the beloved subject is overwhelmed by the clutter of your untidy living room (or maybe that’s just my problem). Try to be always aware of the background when taking photos as these types of problems can generally be easily solved by moving your subject or changing your angle (see #8).

#4 - Fill the Frame
AKA – Get Close…no closer! Whether you do this by physically moving closer to your subject or utilizing a zoom lens, filling the entire frame with your subject can have a stunning effect and allow you to pick up details that would be missed in a full-length shot. Although much of my daughter’s witch costume is not visible in this shot, it is still my favorite from the shoot. There’s enough to get the idea…and just look at those lashes!!

#5 - Frame Your Subject
A fun way to draw attention to your subject is to frame them in a window, doorway, or even elements in nature. In the shot below, my daughter is framed by the overhanging trees. Since I was going for somewhat whimsical, distant look in this photo, she is rather small, so I also used the rule of thirds to help draw the viewer’s eye to her in the photograph.

#6 - Don’t Amputate
When going for a full-length shot, don’t cut someone off at the ankle (or worse yet, the neck)! Always be aware of what you are ‘cutting off’ in your photos and where. Of course, when taken a closer photo, you have to cut of something, right? Of course. The general rule of thumb is to not cut your subject off at a joint, which makes them look unnatural (as if they’ve been amputated). It’s generally best to crop between joints.

#7 - Vary your angle
Any angle can get a little boring if you use it all the time…switch things up a bit by varying the angle from which you take your photos. Try taking shots from above your subject, while lying on the ground, at eye level, or from the side. I shot this picture of my daughter from above and not only is it an interesting angle, but also allowed me to highlight her beautiful dress in a way that no other angle would have. This can also mean varying the angle of your camera itself and giving your photo a tilted effect as in the second example below.

#8 - Go vertical
Just because your camera is built in a horizontal orientation doesn’t mean you can put it on its side and go vertical. Vertical shots can work very well when taking portraits and can really add interest to a shot of something that is generally viewed in a horizontal nature, such as this picture of a quilted American flag that I took at the Air & Space museum in Ashland, NE.

5 Books to Help Enhance Your Skills:
1) The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
Composition Photo Workshop
3) Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography
Mastering Composition with your Digital SLR
Basics Photography: Composition (Basics Photography (Numbered))
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