"Composition" is arranging the elements of the image within the frame for the best effect, and involves the ability to "see" pictures, or what the visual world will look like when rendered in 2 dimensions. In other words, it's the set-up. Here are some tips:

  • Develop your natural fascination with the visual world. Look at the composition of paintings, drawings, and famous photographs to see how images are balanced within the borders. Walk around your subject entirely and come closer and then try walking further away before committing to a vantage point.
  • Watch for common errors, such as: trees or poles growing out of people's heads, double amputation, partial decapitation, too much headroom, too much background and not enough subject, and other gaffes which occur because the photographer looks only at the person standing in front of him/her.
  • A very common error that is easily solved is known as "centeritis." This is the tendency for the subject to occupy the exact vertical middle of the frame and for the horizon to occupy the exact horizontal middle of the frame. This composition is dull, static, and uninteresting. The solution is to remember the "rule of thirds." The way to follow this rule is to mentally divide the screen in three equal sections vertically, and then three horizontally (like a tic-tac-toe grid). Align your vertical subject matter 1/3 of the way over from the left or right, emphasizing background in the remaining 2/3. Then align your horizon 1/3 of the way from the top or bottom, emphasizing a cool sky or a cool foreground, depending on what you've got.
  • Eye level. Take the eye level of your subject for a more intimate portrait, especially with pets or children (this means, get down so that the camera is at the same height as the subject's eyes); high angle is distancing and low angle is menacing (you can also use this to your advantage if that is the effect you want)
  • Visual themes. Watch for repetition of color, line, shape, texture, or perspective, as these can make for more compelling images. An example would be a picture of a girl in a purple dress with lilacs (these are purple flowers) in the background or foreground, or a number of doorways of similar shape and size but of different colors, etc.
  • Line and movement. Watch for lines that naturally lead the eye toward the subject, such as railroad tracks, rivers, winding roads, railings, and fences.

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