Seven Composition Tips

These are 7 digital photography composition tips that can improve your photos. Whether you are shooting with a high end dSLR or a simple point and shoot digital camera these are basic tips that will help take your photography to the next level.

Tip 1: Take Control of the Group

If you are photographing a group of people, then take control and tell them what to do. The people in the group can't see what you can see standing in front of them. You are the only one who has the perspective to know how the final product will look. The more specific you can be in telling people where to stand and how to move, the better your group photos will be.

Even casual pictures can benefit from a little directing from the photographer. If you have a group of kids playing, try to get them close together for a group shot. Three kids throwing a ball to one another 40 feet apart is not as fun of a picture as them in a bunch trying to pull the ball away from the others.

Tip 2: Use the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a composition rule of thumb that dictates where your subject is most visually appealing in a frame. Imagine that your camera's viewfinder or display is divided into nine sections like a tic-tac-toe board. Your subject should be along one of the lines on the grid. As much as possible, your subject will be divided by a line or an intersection of lines instead of in one of the nine spaces.

You can use the rule of thirds to highlight a house on a prairie hill, while showing how blue and bold the sky is. The house is still your subject, but you are showing the house in relationship to the open, clear sky. Imagine the lines of your tic-tac-toe board superimposed over the scene. By placing the house in the bottom right intersection of the two dividing lines you can show the house and where it sits in the universe.

However, if your intent is to show the endless prairie that leads up to the house, then you want to place the house in your image to one of the top intersections of lines. This will still emphasize the house, but show how it relates to the landscape around it.

Even if the house takes up the whole frame, but you want to draw the attention of your viewers to a certain window, you can use the rule of thirds. The viewer's eyes will naturally be drawn to the imaginary line that crosses through the main subject-your window. This natural tendency will be stronger if your window is at one of the intersections of the grid.

Tip 3: Watch Out for Problematic Background Elements

When snapping your vacation pictures, be aware of what is in the background. It only needs to be pointed out once that there is a telephone pole growing out of the top of your child's head for you to never fully enjoy that picture like you once did. If there are words in the background, make sure the letters don't form Mikey Mouse ears over your subject's head. Poles sticking out each ear should be avoided too.

Be observant of what is behind your subject before taking the picture. If you have asked someone else to snap a picture of you and your friend standing in front of a historic spot, make sure you review the picture when you get your camera back. If you are coving up the main attraction, or the statue looks like his finger is stuck in your ear, then it is time to move as necessary and grab another volunteer.

Tip 4: Use Vertical Shots

Don't fall into the trap of shooting everything horizontal. There is no reason you can't turn your camera sideways to get a vertical shot if that is appropriate. Because you are shooting digitally, you are not limited to just a couple of pictures. Snap some horizontal and vertical shots and decide later which one works best for you.

A warning note about vertical pictures. If you are printing your pictures for viewing, then you lose nothing by taking vertical pictures. However, if viewing pictures on a screen, you will lose a good amount of size because of wasted screen space on the sides of the image.

Tip 5: Work at Eye Level With Your Subject

Photographs of children typically look like photographs of children because they are taken from an adult's perspective. However, these photos can be more visually pleasing and more respectful if you you will lower the camera to the eye level of the subject. This goes for animals too. Photographing a pet from their level, or even below them, can provide an interesting view.

When taking a picture of a plant, getting at the same level as the plant can be aesthetically pleasing. Shooting the plant from below and showing the much larger trees in the background makes the viewer feel tiny. Variety is the key to getting people to continue to look at your pictures.

Tip 6: Use Your Feet to Zoom

Moving in close to people gives a more intimate feel to the image. We often look at pictures because of interest in the subject or their facial expressions. Getting closer to the child is what grandma wants to see when looking at your pictures.

Zooming can be done with the camera's lens or by moving physically closer to the subject. Experiment with various pictures. Optically zooming in on the subject changes the way the background and foreground appear in relation to one another. There is usually a set zoom distance where a lens creates a picture that looks "normal." Try taking some pictures zoomed in using the camera and some zoomed in using your sneakers to see which ones look more natural to you.

Tip 7: Move Around and Take Many Pictures

The single biggest tip for getting better composition with a digital camera, is to take a lot of pictures. Over time you will learn what works and what doesn't, but until then, you can virtually guarantee good composition by moving in relation to your subjects or in relation to your light source. It only takes a few seconds to shoot a handful of pictures from different angles. This is a time that using a tripod may not be in your best interest since it takes more effort to move the camera freely with a tripod.

You don't need a high end camera with full manual controls to learn good composition. In fact, before the days of digital cameras, many professional photographers would use Polaroid cameras to snap a quick picture to help them spot any major composition problems. This saved time and money by not having to return for a re-shoot. By practicing these digital photography composition tips with your camera phone, you will be a more experienced photographer when it comes time to upgrade your photographic equipment.