Composition Tips for Beginners

It is crucial to be well-composed. It is one of the most crucial aspects of photography if you want to create powerful images. Many photographers begin with the rule of thirds and never learn how to create better photos. You can learn more about composition. This is a complex topic and it’s impossible to cover all of it in one article. However, I will try my best to highlight the most important points.

1. What is composition?

The structure for a photograph is called composition. Composition is how you arrange elements in an image to achieve the desired look. It can either make or break an image. You must compose your photo properly if you find an interesting subject, no matter how bright the lighting or unusual the conditions.

It is possible to alter the composition of a photograph with incredible power. You can move forward and backwards, right and left. Change your lens — zoom in, zoom out. Pay attention to the elements you are including in the scene, and the ones you don’t. When done correctly, composition is the art of presenting your subject to your viewers in the most effective way. It’s the way to convey a message through your photos.

Intentional composition of a crab

2. The Elements of Composition

Points, lines and shapes.

These are the fundamental elements of composition. Everything in your image, including your subject and background, are points, lines, shapes. Of course, some of them can be very complicated. It is clear that a face or a tree are complex things. They still have a form and can be used to help create the image’s structure.

There are many elements to a photograph, but it’s not enough. It’s important to see how they interact with each other. If they are properly arranged, many elements in a photo can be stronger than the sum of their individual parts.

Take a look at these photos to see how it all works. These photos show side-by-side comparisons between a successful photograph and its components. This is Yosemite photo. The line drawing alone can show that the composition is balanced with equal interest in each half of the frame. To see the comparison between before and after, drag the slider back-and-forth.

Next, Death Valley has a dynamic composition with strong diagonals running along the entire length of the photo.

Last is a photo taken from Jokulsarlon, Iceland. It shows a block of ice washed ashore. You can see the lines, shapes and structure of this photo.

The interesting thing about these line drawings so far is their ability to function on their own and maintain the same emotional mood as the original image. They wouldn’t look good on my wall so I wouldn’t hang them there. However, they do have an internal structure that is simple enough to be useful.

Do I really think of my subject as a series of black-and white lines when I am out taking photos? If I said I thought so, I would be lying. What I care about is how to arrange a good structure. This has its roots in basic elements such as lines and shapes.

3. Intent

is the key to composition. The important thing is to choose your composition deliberately.

Composition is only as good as its intent. Photographs should not be accidental. Every photo must have a reason. Your photos will be of high quality if you keep this in mind and spend time out in the field to make it happen. This is almost impossible to avoid since you will put more conscious thought into the appearance of a photo.

Intentional composition

4. Simplicity

Every photo you take contains an emotional message. This is the reason you took the photo. It’s a great thing to consciously think about your emotional message when you are out taking photos. Then, choose the way you want it to be expressed. simplicity is the key to this power.

Simplicity is a way to ensure that your image conveys the right emotional message. You want to convey beauty and wonder in a landscape. This could include power lines, footprints, trash, or anything else that might distract from the beauty of the landscape.

Simplicity also means simplicity in your composition. If your goal is to create a chaotic, overwhelming photo, don’t overload your viewers with too many details. Your photo will be as powerful and compelling as possible if it tells the right story without distractions.

Photo employing simplicity

5. Balance

Balance is one of my main considerations when creating a photograph.

It is easy to find balance. It is easy to find out how much attention each element draws. This is called “visual weight.” Bright objects, bright colors, eyes, animals, people, and animals with high contrast are all examples of objects that have high visual weight. Anything that draws attention in real life is considered to be high-quality. Next, determine if the visual content is evenly distributed across the frame or if one side has more than the others (from left-to-right). A balanced photo is one that has the visual weights roughly equal. If they are not equal, it is an imbalanced photo. (Neither one is necessarily better than the others.)

Balanced composition diagram

It works much like a seesaw. You can balance your main subject with a heavier object (the “heavy”), as long as it is closer to the edges of the photo. Look at the image below.

Photographers have two options: to take balanced or unbalanced photos. Each is equally good. It doesn’t matter if they convey different emotions.

Heavy element balancing lighter element
  • Balanced photos can be peaceful, static and calm.
  • Imbalanced photos look dramatic, intense, and dynamic.

A balanced photo is not a good idea if you are photographing a calm lake at sunrise. It could work well with more intense subjects. It all depends on the mood that you want to convey.

6. Breathing Space

If you have multiple points of interest in your photo, it is a good idea to give them breathing space by spacing them out from each other. You could end up with a messy composition if elements in your photo are interrelated (or at the edges of your frame).

Imagine a scene in which several birds fly through the air. You want to capture them all in one photo. It is possible to make the image look messy and unintentional if one bird crosses in front. Instead, it’s better for all your subjects to have space to breathe between them and around the edges of your photo.

If you are photographing a mountain and its peak is nearly touching your photograph, the same applies. It can draw unwanted attention to the subject and possibly show a lack of carelessness. It is better for your subjects to be able to stand alone in the photo without being obstructed by other people. This helps you communicate a clear, coherent message to your viewers.

7. Positive and Negative Space

Although we’ve covered negative and positive space before, it is worth repeating.

A photo with a lot of attention and standing outNegative Space is what the opposite of. It’s the areas that blend into the background and don’t draw the attention. There are two options: photos that have high levels of negative space or high levels of positive space. Or you can choose to take photos that contain both. All of them convey different emotions.

Negative space gives photographs a feeling of isolation, peace, and emptiness. These images are often minimalist and work well when trying to convey a sense or scale. The photo below would be suitable for a single tree caught in a snowstorm.

Breathing room for each subject

Photos that have a lot more positive space tend to be more active, intense, and busy. If you don’t be careful, they can make your message appear too cluttered.

These emotions are essential to your composition and help you to convey the message. You can adjust the proportion of positive space to neg space by paying attention to the field. This is a powerful tool that you should have because of the many emotions they communicate.

Breathing space vertical photo

8. Patterns and Relationships

Sometimes, photos can have intricate relationships and patterns that are more interesting than a simple composition if you take care. You might take a photo of a landscape that has an orange flower in its foreground and orange light from distant hills. You could also capture smoke rising from a volcano at evening, matching the shape of the Milky Way overhead.

Lots of negative space

The world of deeper relationships is endless. Photography offers many possibilities. Although it’s unlikely you will find it all the time, you should be aware of it. If a photograph has an imaginative relationship, it will feel totally interconnected and intentional.

Lots of positive space

9. Conclusion

It’s not my intention to make composition seem easy. It’s not impossible in some ways. It’s impossible for even the most talented photographers to master composition.

Similar shape in rocks and clouds

A perfect composition is not something you can reach with enough talent and hard work. Instead, it is a moving target that relies heavily on your changing qualities as well as the scene before you and the emotional goal in mind. You won’t get there using the rule of thirds. This is a basic technique that’s meant for beginners and doesn’t really cover the full scope of what composition can be. It’s the same for every other tip you can find. None of them are good enough to replace the basic elements of composition.

It’s true, even though I hate to admit it. It is impossible to learn all about composition through an article or YouTube video. It is too personal. You must learn composition by yourself.

These tips should give you some ideas. Composition is one of the most important elements in photography. If done right, it can make your photos stand out from others.