An essential feature of any photograph is what
photographers call the ‘composition’. It is basically
the relative arrangement of the various features in a
photograph, designed to please, instruct or
entertain the viewer.
The subject matter can be viewed from several
angles as only some of them will be pleasing. The
photographer tries to capture the view which gives
the best composition.
Painters are at an advantage over photographers
because they can create what they wish to. But a
photographer can only change his viewpoint or
change the focal length of the lens but cannot add
anything to the scene. Of course, he can also play
with the tone and sharpness of the final print to
achieve the desired result.
COMPOSITION BASICS - HOW TO GET
Focus: A shot in focus is crisp and clear, with good
definition of object. Most digital cameras have
automatic focus and manual focus. Selecting
automatic focus allows you to get quick action
photos. Selecting manual focus allows you to
determine what you want in focus: background,
foreground, usually a person's eyes, or one person
in front of another.
Depth: Photographs are two-dimensional. To make
images more real and alive we try to give the
illusion of depth. Helpful hints: avoid shooting
people up against a wall, pull them away from the
wall, have them stand with a room or field behind
them. Light the subject or have them be the
brightest object. Or, if you're shooting a
building, shoot it at an angle (from the corner) and
have some branches be in the shot - close, yet out
of focus (to add an element of foreground depth).
Foreground - the part of the photo that is closest to
the camera - the branches in front of a park scene.
Background - the part of the photo that is farthest
from the camera - the mountains behind a park scene.
Depth of Field: This is the portion of the photograph
that is in clear sharp focus. How much of the picture is
crisp? To get lots of the photo in focus have lots of light
and have the subject farther away from the camera. You
may want to have a shallow depth of field (only the
subjects eyes in focus, for example) then you would
decrease the light and move the subject closer to the
Contrast: Variety adds to your photograph. The
subject should be the lightest area of the screen
because our eyes are drawn to light. The
background behind them should be darker. Placing
the sun behind you will assist you in getting good
Exposure: Exposure is the amount of light
entering the camera. A picture looks its best with
proper light and exposure. Usually the camera
gives automatic exposure. As you get more
comfortable with the camera, try manually
controlling the lights and exposure to get the best
Framing: Fill the screen with the main object. Get
a tight shot of your subject.
Notice how the Sunflower fills the shot.
Headroom: Enough room for the subject's head.
Space around their head yet not too much. Too low in
the frame (too much headroom) makes them appear
short. Not enough headroom makes them look tall and
scrunched. Correct headroom gives the subject just
enough space around their head to make them look
Not Enough Headroom
Avoid Distractions: Keep the photo as basic
as possible. Also, look to see what else is in the
screen that you may not want there. Are there
distracting lines, lights, objects? Clear them out
by moving either your camera or your subject. Be
aware of light poles, phone lines or antlers that
appear to be coming out of people's heads.
Notice the Poles in the Back? Too Many Distractions!
Avoid "floating heads": Don't cut people off at
the neck - or body joints, this is disconcerting to the
Give "look-space"/ walking room: This is space in
the frame that is in front of their eyes that allows them
room to look or walk. So they don't look like they will
bump into the edge of the photograph.
The best place to put the camera for a neutral
feeling about the subject is at their eye level.
High angle: In relation to subject placing the camera
lower than the subject gives the feeling that the subject
is tall or powerful. The viewer is "looking up" to the
subject. (For example: a king, president or respected
Low angle: Placing the camera above the subject
gives the viewer the feeling that the subject is small or
diminutive. The viewer is "looking down" on the subject.
Distance to subject: If the subject is farther away,
they appear smaller and also of less importance.
Similarly, if the subject is closer to the camera, the
subject is bigger in the photo and seems more important.
Closer brings out detail - the viewer can see the person's
face and expressions.
To make your final product more interesting (and
informative) include a variety of pictures (shots). Shot
sizes range from extreme long shots (person far
away), to extreme close ups (just their eyes).
1. ELS = Extreme Long Shot (person in
2. LS = Long Shot (whole body)
3. MS = medium shot (waist up)
4. MCU = Medium close-up (mid chest up)
5. CU = Close-up (head and shoulders)
6. ECU = Extreme Close-up (face - or eyes!)
7. OTS = Over the Shoulder
8. Single = One person in the frame
9. 2-Shot = Two people in the frame
10. 3-Shot = Three people in the frame