5 Simple tips to improve your composition of your photographs
Something that I am often asked about in my photography classes is something called the “eye” and far from it being a vague reference to lord of the rings for most photographers starting out it is a mystical skill that you are born with and if you don’t have it, you will never amount to much as a photographer. The “eye” refers to basic composition skills and far from being born with it most photographers have to develop it. How do you develop any skill? Simples, just practise it, and practise different types of it, so if you’re just starting out and looking to shake things up a tad, here are a few simple tips improve your photographs.
Move your subject off centre with the rule of thirds
A very simple way to get a bit more ummff in your photography is simply moving your subject out of the centre of your frame and more towards the edge, you can use a technique called the rule of thirds, this composition technique is the most commonly used techniques to bring balance to an off centre image. Envision your frame is divided into 9 equal parts by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. Then all you have to do is put the most important elements in your image along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.
How many images do you think are taken every day from a standing position? Millions? Perhaps even billions? Often when we see photographers they are on one knee taking a photograph? But why? By getting lower they are changing the perspective of the shot, and including foreground detail, this also changes the relationship between the sizes of things in the frame so that things that are closer to the lenses look bigger.
Fill your frame
perhaps one of the most important things you can do when composing an image is to fill your frame, get closer to your subject, one of the most common reasons a image will lack impact is because you there is not enough of the subject filling the frame, if there is to much going on in your shot your subject may become lost.
Don’t photograph every image in landscape format, turn your camera to the side to get a different shaped frame, this works great for well portraits, but also buildings, anything that’s taller than it is wider.
Lead in lines
Leads in lines are a great way to draw the viewer into your image. All you need do is to find two lines that run into the distance they can be parallel and never touch or can touch to form a nodal point in the image.
The most important rule is that you break the rules, move things around, break free of simply compositions, experiment, there’s no such thing as a photograph that is wrong, focus on textures, and form, find depth in your images, try photography the tiniest details when your composing. Just have fun.
Stewart Kenny is a photography trainer and guide with Dublin Photography School, Stewart teaches photography students of all levels in Dublin and surrounding counties as well as leading photography holidays in Ireland. To see more about his Photography courses in Dublin see here
Some simple tips to improve your travel photography
When we think of travel photography we often think of the famous landmarks, monuments and attractions of the city or country we plan to visit. However for many people these famous sites are just the tip of the iceberg when visiting a new destination. To me travel photography is so much more than just landmarks. To me it is a sub genre of documentary and reportage photography that involves looking at landscapes, cultures, customs, people and their history. It conveys in an image a feeling that expresses the feeling of a particular time and place. When we return from a holiday,we often don’t remember the big things like the Eiffel tower or the Brandenburg Gate. It can be the small things, the quirks of the trip that spring to mind, for example the small coffee shops, the local markets, the artisans that ply their trade on the roadside. The food and the art, are all the things that make a culture unique. When we go away what we are looking to find is not what is similar to our own culture but what is different. With that in mind here are a few simple tips on what to look for when photographing on your adventures and travels.
- Plan Ahead
Think about what kind of shots you want and make a list. If it’s mostly scenic landscapes then pack a wide angle lens. If it’s people a 50mm fixed or if it’s a mix consider a zoom lens.
- Research your location
Look at local postcards or travel guide books to get an idea of scenic areas and monuments to shoot. These are often shot by local photographers who have scouted out the best locations. Replicate a well known image and put your own twist and flaire on it.
- Colours & traditions
Countries by their very nature are defined by their culture and traditions. Think about what is unquie to the country you are visiting and try to photograph it. Spain’s matadors, India’s holi festival and America’s fourh of July are to name but a few. Pay attention to colour. Colours are one of the most important aspects of a culture and will have a massive impact on your image. They can be found everywhere from flags to food, so remember to keep your eyes open.
- Get off the beaten track
Get off the main tourist trail and visit small shops, local bars, markets and cafes. Try to chat with locals. It’s amazing what tips you will pick up from them. Local knowledge is worth its weight in gold to a travel photographer.Remember that your safety is your first priority.
- Bring a tripod or a tripod subsitute
A lot of the action takes place in the evening, especially in hotter climates where the heat of the day can be over whelming. Be prepared to photograph in low light and carry something portable you can use as a tripod, i.e. beanbag, tabletop tripod, or a gorilla pod.
- People , People, People
Although a countries landscape can lookare stunning in photographs, it is the people that make up a culture. Try not to get bogged down with only photogrphing landscapes. Photograph locals going about their business and daily chores. Look out for things that they do differently from what you are used to.
This is not just an “Aretha Franklin” song, but a huge part of being a good photographer. Different cultures have different attitudes and laws to photography. Some cultures will not mind at all, while others will often be offended when you start snapping away. Do some research on this before you head away on your trip.
Take pictures of local cusines and restaurants. Go further also and look into local markets, fruit stalls, wineries and breweries. Look for where the locals are eating and have a try. Instagram is handy for this if you don’t want to carry your camera gear around.
Remember that these are just simple tips and a quick guide, so feel free to experiment and try new things. Experiment with angles and compositions and most importantly have fun. Don’t get so tied up in your photography that you forget what your holiday is about, exploring, relaxing and having fun.
Stewart Kenny is a photography trainer and guide with Dublin Photography School, Stewart teaches photography students of all levels in Dublin and surrounding counties as well as leading photography holidays in Ireland and Iceland. To see more about his Photography courses in Dublin see here or for more about Photography holidays in Ireland or Iceland see Travel Department.ie