learn :: The Composition of a Great Photo

Say hello to the second lesson in our series where Erin Walker shows us how to create beautiful photographs with a digital SLR camera. Erin is trained in photojournalism, graphic design, and photography, and she's on a mission to change the photography community in Edmonton. If you missed it, jump over to the first lesson about lighting.

Lesson 2: Composition

Composition is the arrangement of the subject within a photograph. It can be used to create a feeling, or simply draw the eye to a particular part of the image. Here are three tips for using composition to create a wall-worthy photograph.

 1. Avoid the middle. This tip is what the photography world calls "The Rule of Thirds". Start by imagining your image being divided into three equal sections, both vertically and horizontally (9 boxes in total).

The "sweet spots" on this grid are the points where those lines intersect. Placing the subject on one of these points creates interest in the photograph.

2. Use the lines to make your point. Images are made up of millions of little lines. Sometimes they can be hard to see, but if you are creative and practice finding them, you can use lines to draw a viewer's eye towards your subject. Look for the line in the surroundings of your subject. Sometimes all you have to do is move one way or the other, and the line will become visible.

3. Keep it simple. Having trouble creating a composition you're happy with? Try to simplify, whether it's the background or the number of subjects in the photo. Sometimes, creating a more simple composition can make a photo better.

Try this exercise to practice your composition skills!

  1. Find an interesting subject: a piece of art, a (patient) person or a building. Try to have your subject in soft light if you can.
  2. Photograph the object from many different angles. First, focus on creating a photograph that uses the rule of thirds. Next, try taking a photograph that focuses on lines, & use the lines in the photo to draw the eye towards your subject. Lastly, try to take a photo keeping simplicity in mind. 
  3. Upload the images to your computer or print out the photos and compare. Which ones do you like the best? How does the mood of the photo change based on it's composition?

Like what you see? Erin has put together lovely Photography Workshops to share her "secrets" to success. The beginner workshop is on February 23rd. If you've already got the basics figured out, the intermediate workshop in March shows you how to edit your photos. She's keeping the groups small and intimate with cute snacks and lots of hands on activity to encourage creativity. Sign up quick, spots are limited!