5 Portrait composition ideas – not rules!

Jul 26, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 Portrait composition ideas – not rules!

Jul 26, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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All those “rules” around composition, and ultimately none of them are infallible. We’re often told about things like the rule of thirds, and others to help us improve our photography. We’re also often told that we can break them. So, are they really rules? No, they’re guidelines. But they need to be understood in order know how to break them effectively.

Photographer Eric Floberg knows how to break them quite effectively, and he’s put this video together with five of his favourite portrait composition ideas. They’re not just for portraits, though. Some of these can work equally as well for macro, landscapes and other subjects if you think about them carefully.

1. Centeredness

Putting your subject in the centre of the frame is one of the things we’re regularly told to not do. But it can be very effective. The trick to having your subjects centred in the frame is to keep the scene balanced on either side of them.

2. Negative Space

Negative space is often spoken about as a bad thing. Usually, what people talk about it, they say there’s too much, that the subject isn’t very prominent in the frame. But sometimes this can be a good thing. Sometimes, it’s not just the primary subject that’s the story, but the context of the entire scene. And when done well, it can really draw your attention to them.

3. Eric’s Rule of Thirds

Eric has a slightly different interpretation on the rule of thirds to that which is normally mentioned. Typically, we’re told to put subjects or focal points on the intersection of horizontal and vertical third lines. Eric, instead, breaks the image up into three segments. It’s similar to his centeredness idea, but that centre part takes up about a third of the image.

4. Background + Foreground

This isn’t quite as obvious as you might think. Eric uses double exposures to create these images, to have something in the ground and something else in the background. It’s an interesting effect, and simulates the look of shooting with items between your camera and your subject, but with a bit more control over exactly how it blends into your scene.

5. Natural Framing

Looking for natural frames in a scene definitely takes some practice. Some things will wrap our subjects and naturally just fit, while others that we think might work fail miserably. But look for possibilities, experiment, and the better you’ll get at spotting these.

What are your favourite composition tips?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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2 responses to “5 Portrait composition ideas – not rules!”

  1. Huge Dom Avatar
    Huge Dom

    Good tips.

  2. Fernando Adrian Avatar
    Fernando Adrian

    #3 makes me remember Drive movie photography, it shows me how you can tell more than one story in a single image