Legendary photographer Ansel Adams famously said that truly impressive photos are never taken; no, the best photos are made. You can have the most compelling subject matter in the world right in front of you, but if it isn’t shot in a compelling way, you won’t create a memorable photograph.
Are you being as proactive as you can be with your compositions? Hit the jump for four techniques to take your images to new levels.
1. The Primacy of a Clear Focal Point
You’ve likely heard of the “Rule of Thirds” and “The Golden Mean” and perhaps even had some luck with applying them in your compositions. However, foundational to solid composition is selecting a focal point in even the “busiest” scenes and allowing the other visual elements to support it.
While the human brain does this naturally in the world, in a photograph, the camera sees all, edits nothing. That’s why it’s up to the photographer to choose a strong focal point and use lighting effects, camera angle or focal length to cause the rest of the elements to fall into a synergetic supporting role.
2. Remember that Balance Can Be Subjective
Many photographers fall into a habit of centering just about every subject they shoot. While this is appropriate in some cases, a more subjective approach is often much more compelling. Deliberately moving the subject or focal point away from center brings in different energies and dynamics to the image that can be played upon.
A photo heavily weighted, for example, to the bottom right of the frame can be magnificently balanced with a dramatically-lit sky or glinting raindrops moving in the opposite direction. Let compositional balance in your photos be more about “feel,” and see what happens.
3. Be the Maestro, Storyteller and Guide
Embrace your role as the director of each photograph, the composer of a visual symphony. Without direction, an image can be disorganized and discordant. Use existing shapes and lines in a scene to assist with guiding the viewer’s eyes where you want them to go. A strong focal point along with supporting elements that move the eye allows you to tell a story in your photographs. Make sure the photo is saying what you truly want to say.
4. Make Use of Movement and Texture
Yes, a physical photo is static, two-dimensional and smooth; however, when a skilled composer is behind the lens, photos can seem to come alive, breathe, take flight, and exude kinetic energy. If appropriate, use elements within each scene that can accentuate some of these effects. Floating clouds, diagonal road lines whizzing by, or textured natural elements that seem to jump right out of the shot can make your compositions seem multi-media.
Those who are drawn to the visual arts often have an innate sense of composition, but this talent can always be expanded and refined. Try out these four photography composition techniques and see what happens; you just might take your images to new places.