BACKGROUND

How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.

Female violinist

DEPTH

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

Sheep in field will misty hills in the background

FRAMING

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

Lake framed by hills either side

CROPPING

Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background “noise”, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.

Ceramic ornaments of characters hugging

EXPERIMENTATION

With the dawn of the digital age in photography we no longer have to worry about film processing costs or running out of shots. As a result, experimenting with our photos’ composition has become a real possibility; we can fire off tons of shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your composition – you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.

Lone tree in field illuminated with golden light

Digital photography allows us to experiment with different compositions until we find the perfect one. Image by Jule Berlin.

Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the “rules” above should be taken with a pinch of salt. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they can often prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.…

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PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION RULES

It may sound clichéd, but the only rule in photography is that there are no rules. However, there are are number of established composition guidelines which can be applied in almost any situation, to enhance the impact of a scene.

These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs, lending them a natural balance, drawing attention to the important parts of the scene, or leading the viewer’s eye through the image.

Once you are familiar with these composition tips, you’ll be surprised at just how universal most of them are. You’ll spot them everywhere, and you’ll find it easy to see why some photos “work” while others feel like simple snapshots.…

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images that’ll make you want to visit British Columbia

Upon arrival at Farewell Harbour Lodge and after a quick bite to eat, our guides kitted us up and took us straight out on one of the boats in search of whales… We didn’t have to wait long! Our guide, Marine, hadn’t even finished off the safety demo and we could already see a pod of orca whales leaping ahead of us!

Orca watching, Farewell Harbour

Next we spotted Steller Sea Lions, basking in the sun. The large adult males can weigh up to 1.2 tonnes and have an impressive low-frequency vocalisation, sounding like a loud roar!

Humpbacks bubble net feeding, British Columbia

The highlight of the day for me was the humpback whales, we even saw them bubble-net feeding!

The following day took us out in search of grizzly bears, but en route we were lucky enough to bump into this gorgeous black bear, foraging along the shoreline.

Black bear at Farewell Harbour

We saw grizzly bears in abundance at the falls catching salmon, but my favourite grizzly shot has to be this one, a gorgeous looking bear crossing the river, completely unfazed by our presence!

Brown bear at Farewell Harbour

The journey to Haida Gwaii was an adventure in itself, consisting of a chartered flight to Sandspit and then a helicopter transfer to our lodge, only accessible by air or boat! And despite the clouds we enjoyed incredible aerial views over the islands.

Aerial view of Haida Gwaii, Canada

Haida Gwaii is a landscape from ancient times, home to temperate rainforests, remote islands and welcoming Haida people.

Haida Gwaii forest walk

Uncovering this magnificent totem pole in the middle of the rainforest was a very special and poignant experience for me. I love how the totem pole blends so easily into the forest and is covered in moss and old growth.

Totem pole, Haida Gwaii

We enjoyed delicious homemade lunches on wild, rugged and remote beaches like the one shown below.

Remote beach in Haida Gwaii

On the island of SGang Gwaay, the remains of large cedar long houses, together with a number of totem poles illustrate the way of life for the Haida people. SGang Gwaay is located in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area and Haida Heritage Site.…

BALANCING ELEMENTS

Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

Road sign with building behind

RULE OF THIRDS

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

Lighthouse with rule of thirds grid

Notice how the building and horizon are aligned along rule-of-thirds lines. Image by Trey Ratcliff.…

LEADING LINES

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey “through” the scene. There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.

Road winding through mountains