The best kind of advice is usually the simplest, like “when spending time with others put your phone away” and “soggy cereal is never as good as last night’s takeaway curry so have the curry for breakfast.” In this latest video, Mark Denney tells us the “best composition advice he’s ever heard” and follows up by saying that it’s so simple that he wished he’d known this earlier.
Walk around a bit first and survey the scene before even getting your camera out start taking a mental inventory and ask yourself what do you love about this scene? What do you like about it and why do you want to point your camera at it? Maybe it’s the waterfall you’re looking at, maybe it’s the light, or the autumn leaves surrounding it. Maybe there are some interesting rocks, basically, the things that capture your eye. Mark even suggests that if you are out with other people you can all do this exercise together and you will most likely come up with different things that you like.
The second step really simplifies composition further. Mark is correct when he says that there are so many rules and tips and tricks out there that it can be a bit overwhelming trying to remember everything when you’re out there in the field, particularly for less seasoned photographers.
Once you have the things that you love from step one, you just put them together like pieces of a puzzle. You’re essentially taking the elements that you like from a scene and begin organising them in different ways. While he acknowledges that some things are out of your control, you can use your camera and the way that it sees to organise those elements. For example, you can get low to the ground, you can make the rocks in the foreground look more dominant in the image, you can compose to include a huge expanse of the sky and just a little sliver of land.
Mark says that he doesn’t usually use a tripod while he’s trying out different points of view, it’s only when he decides on a composition will he get the tripod out and commit to making that photograph, all the time keeping the list of things he loves in the back of his mind. Then when the puzzle is coming together that is when you can start making the minute changes that turn a good image into a great image.
This is a very easy and relaxed way to approach composition, particularly when faced with a huge sweeping landscape. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and sometimes difficult to home-in on a few features that make the photograph. I will definitely be trying this tip next time I head outdoors with my camera.