For many composition is one of the most difficult to grasp concepts in creating stunning photographs. I think if you break it down to a few simple ideas, the concept becomes much simpler to understand.

Firstly: Keep it Simple.

Too many photographs are just full of “stuff”. As a photographer, what are you trying to show? At the point where you thought “now that looks nice”, what exactly was it that attracted you to the scene before you and compelled you to raise your camera to your eye? If you can identify what it was then it is easy to then identify what you don’t want or need in your image.

Reflection of a Duck

Reflection of a Duck with Ripples

This image works because it’s really simple. It’s not a photo of a duck, so I chose to silhouette the duck, rather than bring out it’s feather detail. It is more about peace and serenity. I was going for a very early morning walk around a local lake when I took this. There were essentially no people around and it was really quiet. This loan duck broke the perfect reflections on the water as it headed off for it’s early morning feed. Like me, it was in no hurry as it set out across the lake. This photo shows how I felt when I took this image.

To eliminate distracting elements, you have a few tools available to you as a photographer. A fast telephoto lens can be useful when it is used close to wide open. The shallow depth of field this offers will make your subject sharp and throw the rest of the scene out of focus.

Light can be used to draw the eye towards the subject. The viewers gaze will always move to the lighter parts of an image. A contrast of colour will have a similar effect.

Move around to help remove a distracting background.

Secondly: Get in Close.

Make your subject bold and in your face. This can mean using a telephoto lens to make your subject fill the frame, or stepping forward with a wider lens.

Thirdly: Don’t Center Your Subject.

Unless your intention is to play with the symmetry that exists within your image. This is often called “The Rule Of Thirds”, which suggests that placing your subject on one of the vertical or horizontal 1/3 bisecting lines will give a better composition than centering it. If

finally: Look at the Background.

A great photograph is always made up of a great foreground, a great midground and a great background. Many great photograps are spoiled by a really bad background. It’s important to see what is going on behind your subject and understand if the background is adding to, or detracting from, your subject. It’s unlikely a dirty old dumpster will ever make a nice background behind a beautiful Blue Wren. Take a few steps to the side to remove the ugly background from your image, your photo will be much stronger for it.

To be continued….