While editing Your Shot photos this week, I started wondering what makes a photograph stick with you long after you stop looking at it. My immediate instinct was to look to the composition. Technically, composition is the first thing you “see” when looking at a photograph because it’s essentially the photo in its entirety. Your first reaction to a picture is likely due to the way it’s composed.
Composition isn’t just the end result, though—it’s a key thought process in every step of making photographs. A thoughtful composition can create a visual symphony that quickly communicates the story, while also enhancing the visual aesthetics in the photograph.
Take, as an example, Terra Fondriest’s photograph of a dog with a stick splashing through water. She utilized a low perspective that added drama to the moment, while also adding a sense of place. By being in control of her camera, her composition gave the stick some breathing room on the top edge and showed the reflection and splash of the water at the bottom edge.
A clean, well-composed photograph can offer multiple layers of information to tell a story, evoke an emotion, and lead your eye around a moment suspended in time. When looking through your viewfinder, think about the perspective in the frame, using the rule of thirds, and avoiding visual distractions.
Next time you make a photograph, think about how your composition is going to support the story you wish to tell. Subtle adjustments like moving to the side so a pole isn’t sticking out of the center of your portrait character’s head, or getting on your knees to photograph from a low perspective can create a greater impact in the final photograph. Take an extra second to assess all areas of your frame, and ensure the moment communicates the message you want to send. There’s no formula to the perfect composition, just small steps in your visual awareness that will make a big difference!