Saturday, January 2, 2021

12 Days of DSLR Day 8: Composition Basics

Composition is what can take a good photograph and make it into a great one. Knowing how to use your camera is important, but knowing what to DO with your camera is what will really make you stand out. This post for the 12 Days of DSLR covers some composition basics with links to many more in-depth articles.

Welcome to the 12 Days of DSLR! We’re revisiting and updating 12 of our most popular posts to give you the jumpstart on making the most of your DSLR camera. This series is aimed at first-time DSLR owners as well as those who want a little more guidance for how the make the most out of shooting with a DSLR.

Day 8: Composition Basics

Composition and design are fundamental to strong, memorable photography. You can search up plenty of lists of composition "rules," but the key is knowing when to try out a rule and when to break it. Once you get a feel for what some of these rules are, you have the knowledge and flexibility to make them work for you. 

One of the best-known photography composition rules is the Rule of Thirds. The idea is that you mentally divide your image into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and try to align key elements in your image along those lines OR along the points where those lines intersect. You can see an example in the image below. (Curious? Read more about Composition and the Rule of Thirds here.) 

Teaching the Rule of Thirds | Boost Your Photography

Leading lines are another key composition element. Just like arts learn about perspective and vanishing point, photographs need to think about how to use lines to inform their photography. Lines can also include visual cues like the horizon. See the image below for an example of how a crooked horizon line can throw off your entire image. (Read more about Composition and Leading Lines here.) From lines you can move your way up to shapes, form and volume, and finally texture. These four topics were part of a book study on Boost Your Photography a few years back. Click any of the links above to learn more.

Composition: Watch Your Horizons | Boost Your Photography

Another crucial element of composition is what you include in a photograph and what you exclude. Filling the Frame (zooming or cropping in closer to make your entire image a single subject) is a creative way to experiment with bold, dramatic images. See the image of the umbrella at the top of the post for an example. Click here to read more about Composition: Fill the Frame. You can also use elements within your image to create a frame (think: windows or columns or peering through the trees). Framing is a great way to create memorable shots. Click here to read more about Composition: Framing

Finally, think about how you hold your camera. Most DSLR photographers shoot their images in landscape orientation (because that's the natural way to hold a DSLR) in the same way that most photo photographers shoot their images in portrait orientation (because that's the natural way you hold your phone). Don't let your camera determine what kind of shot you take. Click here to read more about how to use Orientation as a Compositional Element.

Conclusion: Make Composition Work for You

Composition and design is a great place to start when trying to do more with your photography. Start by exploring just a few basic rules at a time, and see how a little bit of planning can make a big impact. (Plus, don't forget to have a little fun!)

Stay tuned for the rest of the 12 Days of DSLR! 

Want to learn more? Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.
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