Composing Pictures: Important Tips for Composing the Perfect Picture

Learning how to compose your photographs can mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and a high quality picture. This article will help give you some tips to improve your photo composition and take great digital pictures.

Filling the Frame & Clearing Clutter

There are exceptions to this as you’ll see in a second, but generally filling the frame is one of the easiest things you can do to compose interesting photographs.

Often times, people try to squeeze too much in the picture and end up with a picture that has a cluttered background and turns out uninteresting.

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.

If you don’t fill the frame with just your child, you will lose them in the background and won’t be able to capture their excited expression from swinging high in the air. You can always go back and take a close up of Uncle Ed flipping the burgers.

A nice thing about digital cameras is that after you take the picture you can check for clutter in playback mode. Then if something you hadn’t noticed before is there, like a stray piece of litter on the ground you can re-shoot the picture.

Leaving lots of empty space in the picture also looks good. You might take a picture of something that fills two thirds of the photo for effect. Make sure to get close enough to your subject so they fill up at least a third of the viewfinder or frame. And that brings us to another important tip for taking digital pictures.

Rule of Thirds Technique

Most snapshots have empty (or cluttered) space on either side of the subject, with the subject dead center. That happens because most digital compact cameras with autofocus have center weighted focus.

Rarely do professional photographer have the subject in the center because they use manual focus. However, if you have an auto focus camera there is a trick you can use to avoid center weighted focus. If you have a DSLR you can also use this trick too.

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. Soon enough using the rule of thirds will become second nature with a little practice.

Focus on Focusing

Now lets talk about getting your subject focused without placing them dead center in the picture. This technique works great for subjects that are not moving, like people sitting down or a picture of a statue or tree. Here’s what you do:

  1. Move your subject in the middle of the frame where your viewfinder’s focus point is in the center 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. Now, hold the camera steady and press the shutter the rest of the way down.
  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 the the main point of interest of your subject. For example, with people and animals, this is usually the eyes because they are so expressive.

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.

If you want to add interest to your photos, try using different angles for a new perspective. 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.

By using these tips, you’ll be able to compose great pictures and display them on your wall for all to enjoy.