Lessons on Composition

This will act as an archive to my blog posts about composition

Lesson 1 – Change your Perspective

One of the best but easiest things that photographers can do to improve their images is to change their persepctive. Far to many photographs are captured at eye level and we quickly get bored of this perspective. All you need to to to change this is adopt a bird’s eye view looking down at your scene or a worm’s eye view looking up at your scene. This simple change in perspective will make a world of difference in your images. Take a look at the examples.

Bird's eye view

Captured in Chuong Village outside Hanoi, Vietnam. 70-200mm lens @ 70mm, 1/320 @ f8 ISO 200.

Another thing you can do when taking a picture of a person is change your perspective to match theirs. If they are sitting down, don’t shoot “down on them”; crouch to capture the image. Eye level is best. 17-35mm lens @ 17mm, 1/25 @ f8, ISO 400

Lesson 2 – Get Closer

Most people don’t get close enough to their subject. When I give my camera to someone to take a picture of me or my family, often times they back up from where I originally was standing and framing my photograph. Too much space is left around the outside of the subject.

So what the photographer can do is select a subject and capture an image. Then step closer and take another image. Then step closer still and capture another image. By this point you might have to decide which part of the image to capture. Look for the picture within a picture. Continue to get closer until your camera can’t focus any closer.

18-200mm lens @ 18mm, 1/20 @ f3.5, ISO 400

I picked a subject – this hand washing station in Koya San, Japan.

18-200mm lens @ 18mm, 1/30 @ f3.5, ISO 400

Get closer – find a detail of the original image that you are interested in. I chose an angle which included the three water scoops.

18-200mm lens @ 40mm, 1/40 @ f4.5, ISO 400

Get even closer – find a detail that interests you. I focused in on one of the water scoops.

18-200mm lens @ 200mm, 1/10 @ f5.6, ISO 400

And get even closer. I really liked the drops of water and choosing a longer focal length allowed me to blur the background and isolate the subject.

People who really enjoy doing this eventually are the people who purchase macro lenses because they like finding the details or pictures within a picture. When I bought my first camera, the lens I purchased for it was an all purpose zoom lens. The second lens I bought was a macro lens because I enjoyed taking close up pictures and looking for the picture within a picture.

90mm lens, 1/100 @ f 11, ISO 400

Lenses can only focus so close. Macro lenses allow the photographer to focus very closely. They have very limited depth of field and focusing using autofocus may not be possible. I prefer to use manual focus and move the camera back and forth until the subject is in focus. This image was the best of about 20 I took of the bee and the flower. The vast majority of them with blurry because the bee moved or was out of my plane of focus.


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