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Category: Photographer's Resource
Composing a Good Photograph

by Scarlet

Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 11:58 AM EST

Composing a Good Photograph

One of the main factors in creating a good photograph is image composition -- it’s the way you arrange and position the elements featured in an image in correlation with the background and foreground elements, the angle you are using to compose the shot, and the lighting and contrast.
First identify the main element/point of interest of your photograph, then compose the background and foreground elements around it.
The most important rule of composing a good photograph is the “Rule of Thirds”. Imagine breaking up your image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The four areas where the lines intersect create the four sections of where you can consider placing your points of interest when composing your shot. Also, when placing your point of interest along any of the imaginative lines, you are composing a more balanced and interesting photograph.
For creating a more dramatic shot experiment with different angles. Position the point of interest following the rule of thirds but shoot at it from a lower or higher angle.
Pay attention to all the elements in the background. The point of interest can get lost if you can’t isolate it by using a different angle to compose the shot. In that case you may want to use a shorter depth of field so only the main object is in focus and any background elements are out of focus and appear blurred.
Good framing of a photograph will improve its general appeal. Framing is the use of an element in the foreground leading the viewer’s eye into the image. For instance, you can use some rock formations in the foreground to compose a seashore photograph leading the viewer’s eye out to the ocean.
When photographing moving objects, animals, or people, it is often a good idea to leave space in front of the main element, so it moves into the photograph rather than out of the photograph.
Lighting / Exposure
Finding the right exposure is important to achieve optimal lighting of a photograph. The amount of light depends on three elements: ISO (sensor’s sensitivity to light), aperture (size of lens opening), and shutter speed (time of lens opening). Knowing which settings to use under various circumstances (indoors, outdoors, direct sunlight, backlit objects, etc.) takes a lot of practice and tweaking. Underexposed images will seem too dark, overexposed images are too bright. Understand that changing your ISO, aperture, or shutter speed does not only have an effect on exposure but also on other aspects of the image. For instance, changing your ISO impacts the noise/graininess of the photograph, changing your aperture impacts the depth of field, lowering the shutter speed can easily cause blurring when the camera is not mounted on a tripod or you are taking a photograph of moving objects.
Focus / Aperture
Aperture controls the focus depth of a photograph and allows for real creativity when composing an image. The aperture is the size of the opening of the lens when taking a picture. The larger the size of the opening, the more light gets into the camera. The aperture setting directly affects the depth of field, the amount of the photograph that will be in focus. A small aperture (i.e. f/22) creates a large depth of field and focus for the entire photograph, from elements in the foreground to elements in the background. With a large aperture (i.e. aperture setting f/2.8) you create a small depth of field and only the point of interest in the foreground will be in focus, elements further away from the camera will be out of focus and appear blurred. Experiment with different settings, review the results, and use focus depth as a creative element to composing interesting and appealing photographs.
large depth of field                                                   short depth of field
Image Samples
MediaFocus inspects every individual image submitted to our photography database following strict guidelines for inclusion or rejection. Below are a few sample images depicting acceptable and not acceptable photography.
over exposed                                                     under exposed                                               correct exposure

not in focus                                 in focus

horizon not straight, not in focus                  horizon straight. in focus

bad composition                                             good composition

noise image example               unacceptable noise                     no noise

macro example                                               no detail, not in focus                                      great detail, in focus

Examples of Good Photography




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