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22/05/16
Photography Course Basics – Common Compositional Errors

Snapping a photo is easy, just point your camera in the general direction of the subject and press the shutter release button. Voila!

Photography Course Basics – Common Compositional Errors 

You now have a photo that you can share to your friends and family. However, the likelihood that photo being memorable is slim to none. A true masterpiece is crafted, not just snapped. Next time you see something that you want to photograph, stop and think. What drew your eyes to the subject? Can you refine the idea of the photo (remove elements that do not add anything to the image)? Let’s go through a few of the different compositional errors that are common for beginners.

  • A photo with an unbalanced composition. One of the most fundamental composition rules is to arrange subjects and visual elements in balance within the frame. Imagine that each element of the photo (people, objects, details) is an item on a tray that you balance on one finger precisely in the middle. When you arrange these items try to keep the tray in balance and keep in mind that some items in your photo are “heavier” than others.

  • Not taking the background into consideration. Distracting elements in the background can ruin the image, so avoid anything that takes focus away from the subject. One prime example of this is branches and similar elements in the background of a portrait.

  • No foreground when taking a landscape photo. When you take a photo of a landscape, try to have something in the foreground. It could be rocks, bushes, trees or anything else you find. Position yourself to have those elements in the picture. Too much empty space should be avoided, which leaves us with the next point.

  • Subject too small in the photo. Before you have the confidence of a pro photographer it’s common to stay far away from the subject. Don’t take pictures like a stalker or the paparazzi, get up and close to whatever you’re capturing. This enhances the subject, and creates a clearer purpose by removing distracting elements and showing what you care about.

  • Facing the subject head on. It’s common to just stand there and take a photo of something interesting. But before you shoot, consider if the subject could be pictured from a more interesting angle. Shadows, unusual details and compositional effects can all benefit from a different angle or distance.

  • Not using “power of three”. Three objects are more pleasing to the eye than four. Unless you are going for perfect symmetry, always use an uneven number of objects in the photo. If you see four rusty screws on a table, it’s easy to just remove one for a more striking picture, but in nature you may have to do some legwork to get the right angle (it’s hard to move a tree!).

Interesting effects can be created by breaking the rules of composition, but it’s recommended to master the basics so you know when it’s appropriate to stray away from these techniques.

Sign up for a course with us to get more information about these concepts, as well as a complete understanding of everything regarding the techniques used to craft a masterful image!

Image: Ansel Adams