Composition is crucial skill

I really enjoy delivering photography courses.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 3rd February 2018, 10:45 am
Good Moon Arising
Good Moon Arising

I get to meet enthusiastic people, eager to learn everything they can about using their camera. It’s as rewarding for me as the participants when they discover and apply techniques that were once a mystery.

Learning the technical aspects seems to be most people’s priority; knowing how to balance the exposure between aperture value, shutter time and ISO, plus controlling movement and depth of field. They are valuable skills.

However, the most important part is the one looking through the viewfinder. That makes the biggest difference. An eye for a tremendous shot comes easily to some, but it is a skill that most people learn.

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Composition is complex. There is much more to it than controlling exposure. It can make or break a photo. Fortunately, simple techniques can transform your images.

One of the easiest changes is moving objects away from the centre of the frame.

Look through your viewfinder. Now overlay the frame with an imaginary noughts and crosses board, dividing it into thirds. Move your main subject away from the middle, placing it on the crossing point of those thirds. If you are shooting a landscape and your picture has a horizon, place that on one on the horizontal thirds.

That technique is known as the ‘Rule of Thirds’, but, I prefer to use ‘Guideline of Thirds’ as rules can make photos formulaic and boring. In some photos, such as those including reflections, dividing the image symmetrically can work instead, but, the guideline is a good starting point.

Another simple practice is using leading lines. Also called lead-in lines, these are the features that lead the viewer’s eye into a frame. A classic example is the shot along a jetty or pier. A path, receding fence or a line of seaweed can also work. The technique goes beyond landscapes; looking up along a tree trunk to the leaf canopy, and the line of an arm leading up to the face in a portrait.

Study a photo and note where your eye starts, where it ends up and what route it takes in between. Does it follow a clean line through the frame, or, does it dot all over the image with no clear focus?

This is the challenge for February. Remembering to also consider depth of field, take photos that comply with, or deliberately break, the Guideline of Thirds. Also include leading lines.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your images in Northumberland Camera Club at

The challenge words for this week are Elevation and Alongside.