Improve the composition of your photos

EOS tips

One of the beautiful things about photography is the scope for creative freedom and emotional expression it offers. So it may seem slightly constrictive to discuss the rules of composition – particularly when you’re enjoying your summer holiday. But knowing some simple composition rules can help make your images more pleasing to the eye. Here we discuss how composition can help you order the way things are arranged in your images - and how using the rules can help you control them.

• Pause before your press the shutter
• The rule of thirds
• Leading lines
• Use a window to aid your composition
• Make the most of gridlines
• Look up

Pause before your press the shutter

When away on holiday or a weekend break, you’ll naturally want to take great photos that show the places you’re visiting in the best way. So, rather than simply snap away, take a slight pause before you press the shutter to think about what’s framed in your viewfinder or LCD screen.

A moment’s thought and a quick consideration of your frame will help you to see parts of the picture that are not necessary. A slight move of your camera or a change of your zoom will eliminate them from the frame to give you a stronger, more pleasing image.

Surfer-Wave
Snagging barrels - Chris Kuga
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The rule of thirds

Visually interesting pictures often have a clear composition that gives space for the main subject.

Because the human eye naturally tends to be more interested in images that are roughly divided into thirds, simply placing your main subject slightly off-centre helps the composition of most photographs.

To do this, imagine that your viewfinder or LCD screen is divided in to a 3 x 3 grid arrangement, divided by four lines. Position your subject at the right or left third of your frame rather than directly in the middle. This will usually make a more interesting and attractive image than putting them at the centre.

Pier-Sunset-Rule-Of-Thirds
Leading Lines - Andrew Thackway
Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

When capturing landscapes and cityscapes while you’re away, try to include strong compositional lines that will lead the viewer through the picture from the foreground to the background. Examples include paths, rivers, train lines or road markings.

You will need to position your camera in a suitable vantage point to capture the natural lines in a photo and that may mean a getting up high or down low to maximise the effect.

Mountain-Window-Frame
Framed - A Gude
Rights: Rights: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Use a window to aid your composition

The next time you’re holidaying in a town or city, keep an eye on the windows of the buildings around you. They’re a great aid to composition and can help you capture a unique view. The challenge is positioning yourself to maximise the reflection of the scene in the window with the composition of elements in the reflection.

Make the most of gridlines

Once you’re familiar with the rule of thirds, try using gridlines to compose better photos. Many EOS models have the option to display a grid - either in the viewfinder or on the rear LCD screen. Turn the gridlines on to help you compose pictures more effectively. If you are capturing a view with a horizon line, place it along one of the lines at one-third from the top or bottom of the frame, instead of splitting the picture in half by placing the horizon line at the mid-point of the picture.

Skyscraper - Perspective
Scraping the Sky - Michel Filion
Rights info: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Look up

In a city full of tall buildings, try using a wide-angle lens or standard lens and look up towards to the sky. Use Aperture Priority mode (Av) and select an aperture of around f/8 or f/11. Then, with the camera pointed towards the sky, frame the scene so that the buildings converge. Since these pictures often have a large range of shadows and highlights, you may need to adjust the brightness in your photo using exposure compensation. It may also help to use the in-camera HDR function.

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Coming Next: Seeing the world without a viewfinder

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