These 8 tips for improving your composition probably aren’t what you think

Mar 2, 2020

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.

These 8 tips for improving your composition probably aren’t what you think

Mar 2, 2020

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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Composition is one of those things that some people just get innately. For others, it’s a constant struggle. We try to obey “rules” and many of us miss taking shots because even though we might like them, other people will think it sucks because it doesn’t fit the “rule of thirds”, the “golden ratio” or some other thing we’ve been told that images are supposed to conform to.

In this video from Jamie Windsor, all those “rules” go completely (mostly) out the window, as he discusses the issues around composition and offers eight somewhat unconventional tips that most of this type of content usually doesn’t go into.

  1. Get your position right
  2. Use your phone to help previsualize the shot
  3. Beware the “Rule of Thirds” – Look at your shot as a whole and consider contrast and colour
  4. Blur your eyes to get an idea of overall shape and form
  5. Think conceptually – What do you want your audience to feel?
  6. Crop out irrelevant and distracting details
  7. Keep the edges clean
  8. Don’t be afraid of post-production to alter your composition

They’re not the typical “rules” we often see thrown around when it comes to composition, although point number 3 does touch on them. There are many rules out there and sometimes you might want to at least try and see if any of them work for the scene presented before you if nothing leaps out at you. But don’t rely on them.

The last one, I think is a big one. There’s nothing wrong with cropping in post. Many film photographers would shoot wide and then crop and reframe later on in post. It used to be quite common, especially for medium and large format shooters that had plenty of information left after cropping out what they didn’t need or want in the shot.

What’s your favourite non-rule tip for composition?

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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 “These 8 tips for improving your composition probably aren’t what you think”

  1. Fazal Majid Avatar
    Fazal Majid

    My favorite tip would be: go to an art museum and learn from the Masters.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      I’ve loved going to art museums the last few years. There’s definitely a lot of weirdness in many of them, but there are also some absolute gems we can learn a lot from :)