Feb 27 2010

Composing Pictures: Important Tips for Composing the Perfect Photo

Published by at 5:39 pm under General

Learning how to properly compose pictures can mean the difference between great looking pictures and bad ones. This article will help give you some tips to improve your photo composition and take great digital pictures.

Filling the Frame & Clearing Clutter

Although there are exceptions to this rule, usually filling the frame is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your composition.

Most people make the mistake of trying to include too much in their picture and end up with a boring photo where nothing really stands out.

For example, if you are taking a picture of your child playing on a swing, you should fill the frame of you child on the swing and leave out the swingset and other background clutter like Uncle Ed tending to the barbeque.

Otherwise your child will be lost in the clutter and the picture won’t capture the wonderful details of your child’s fun flight through the air on the swing. You can always take a different picture of Uncle Ed flipping burgers so you can capture just him in the picture.

The great thing about digital cameras is that you can see the picture in playback mode to make sure it looks okay. By checking the picture right away, you often can retake the picture and make it better by getting everyone smiling or removing clutter from the background like a lamp post or tree branch.

Leaving lots of empty space in the picture also looks good. You may want to fill two thirds of the picture of something like a sandy beach to get a special effect. Just be sure to get a close enough shot that your subject fills at least about a third of the frame. So now it’s time to talk about one of the most important tips for taking digital photographs.

Rule of Thirds Technique

Most pictures have the subject directly centered in the picture with a lot of empty space (or clutter) around them. That happens because most digital compact cameras with autofocus have center weighted focus.

Professionally taken photographs rarely have the subject in the center because they use manual focus (we’ll look at a trick that digital compact users can sometimes use). If you have a DSLR you can also use this easy focusing trick.

The “Rule of Thirds” is one of the most popular techniques. With this technique, the photographer has to visualize six evenly spaced lines breaking the viewfinder into nine even boxes. If you want to see gridlines in your preview screen, there are some cameras that have grid lines superimposed over your image to make it easy for using the rule of thirds.

By using the grid in preview mode (or visualizing a grid), you can compose a picture where the subject is on one of the lines or intersections instead of the middle of your picture. And don’t worry about lining up your subject exactly to the grid lines as it is only intended as a guide. With a little practice, using the rule of thirds will become second nature.

Focus on Focusing

Now lets talk about getting your subject focused without placing them dead center in the picture. This method works like a charm for subjects that are still, such as people who are posing, trees, and other still objects. Here’s what you do:

  1. Using the viewfinder’s focus point, move the camera until your subject is in the middle of the frame, and press the shutter release button half way down.
  2. Wait for the green light to glow steadily signifying your focus is locked.
  3. Keeping your finger pressed on the shutter release button so it stays pressed half way down, move the camera until you have the composition you want.
  4. Holding the camera steady, press the shutter the rest of the way.
  5. Always wait for the green light because that is the camera’s signal that it has taken the picture.

More Composition Tips for Taking Digital Pictures (Or Film)

Focus on something specific on your subject. With people and animals, the eyes are often the most expressive area so they tend to be the center of attention.

To make photos pop, develop a photographer’s eye for contrast. The brighter the brights and the darker the darks, the better the contrast.  Another way to make your picture pop is by framing your photo properly. Make sure to choose a picture frame that highlights your picture instead of competing with it. You can do this by using matted picture frames or simple metal or wood gallery picture frames.

Too add interest to a set of  photos of a given subject, take photos from different angles. Get a different perspective by getting up high or lying down on the ground. Don’t always take your pictures from the same vantage point.

Start using these tips and before long you’ll be getting all kinds of compliments on your well composed pictures displayed on the wall.

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