3 Easy Steps for Composing Great Shots

July 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Why care about how I compose my images? 

I know what a lot of people might think. "I don't really care. I just want the memories of each event. They don't have to be artsy-fartsy. If I want art I'll go buy a bunch of stuff from SlyFocal.com." ;) Or maybe you just don't have the confidence to try to be more artistic with your shots. That's fine because, while I'm now a published artist who tends to have great feedback, my first artistic images were terrible, nothing but experimentation. 

The point of improved shooting for the average person is this; how often we take out or display those memories can depend partly on how well they're shot. We're drawn more into photos that have a sense of care about the details. Those who we share our pictures with are also drawn to the same kind of effort. Therefore, diving upward onto a bit of a new learning curve will bring more interest, more depth and more emotion to the moments we look back on our memories.

As with any new process we learn, we will overcome the curve which will leave us with more subconscious skill. A little continued experimentation = better images with little or no thought. By taking a bit of extra time when we shoot, and I mean only a handful of seconds, we can add more life to the moments we treasure.

You might even find yourself a new hobby as an artist, because, as we realize we're getting better at something, we tend to enjoy it more. 

Fine, I'll give it a try

Wonderful! I recommend a slow motion dive-in here, as in, try one technique until you're comfortable with it, then add another. When you're comfortable with two of them, add the last one. 

1. Fill the Frame

The first and easiest; zoom or get up close when you can. Filling your frame with your subject can dramatically improve the level of interest in your shot. When your subject is larger, there is less room for distracting elements, things you and your viewers will likely not care about when reviewing the image. 

Compare the next two shots of the train. In the first, there are a lot of elements that are unnecessary, like boring automobiles, a crane and a bunch of leafless trees. 


The second, by far not my best work, but still an example of a better framed shot than the last one. 

2. Play with angles

I could have shot the following lighthouse straight on, from a distance, but it wouldn't have been as fun or creative for me. So, instead I slowly worked my way around the building, kept checking the shot with my eyes, then got right next to the lighthouse wall and shot it at an upward angle. 

Lighthouse Blue BLighthouse Blue B

The following image was shot from down low. I lowered the tripod down as far as it would go, then aimed the camera upward and turned it a bit so it was not parallel with the wall. 

Wukoki Pueblo Open Room (Vertical)Wukoki Pueblo Open Room (Vertical)

3. Make the frame part of your photo

Think about the frame in the camera viewfinder. Pay attention to the corners and the length of each line around the frame.


Pick just one aspect of the subject you're shooting, maybe it's the length of a line in the subject, or a certain object.

In the following image, I picked the small window in the wall and chose to almost center it in relation to the outer lines in the frame. The hole is about centered both horizontally and vertically. 

Wukoki Pueblo RoomWukoki Pueblo Room

You can also use the frame as if it's part of the image. Work the lines of your subject into the lines of the frame. As with the above photo, I chose to make the lines where the walls join up, come down into the bottom corners of the frame. 

In the picture below, I started by placing the upper, left part of the balloon into the upper, left corner of the frame, then for an artistic twist, I offset it downward just a bit. I also placed the lower part of the balloon into the lower, right corner of the frame. 

Hot Air Balloon Closeup CHot Air Balloon Closeup C

I did almost the same thing with the baby's arm and inner leg, below, using the upper, right corner of the frame as a resting point for her arm... and the lower right corner of the frame for her inner, lower leg. 

Baby BWBaby BW

So that's it!

Have fun because, as I said in another article, Everyone is an Artist. Now go out and prove it!  


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