The exposure is dead on, the focus is sharp, and the timing is perfect. But if the composition is off, the image is just meh. Composition is essential in snapping images that impress. But what do you do when what you see filling the viewfinder is just not working for you? If you’re not awed by what you see through the lens, the viewer won’t be either. However, that doesn’t mean you should just forget about it and move on. Here are 15 ways to spice up a boring composition.
Perspective plays a big role in composition. While eye-level shots can work well sometimes, they can get boring quickly. After all, that’s the way people view something everyday. Instead, try climbing to get a higher perspective. Bring a step stool or small ladder when it’s feasible. Or, climb to a higher vantage point from a hill, a tree, a fence, whatever happens to be around at the time. A higher perspective often offers instant flair to a boring photo.
No, I don’t mean start dancing. I mean try a lower perspective. Shooting low to the ground makes subjects appear taller, making something as simple as a daisy feel much more important. Don’t be afraid to get dirty or look ridiculous. Go ahead and kneel or belly crawl on the ground. A lower perspective adds interest to a boring composition. Some subjects are best shot from a lower perspective all the time. For example, when photographing children, shooting from their eye level, and not yours is a strongly recommended. Shooting from your eye level will make them appear smaller and unimportant.
Add a foreground element.
A simple way to adjust a dull composition is to evaluate what’s included in the frame. The foreground is an often forgotten opportunity. Adding an out-of-focus element to the front of the image can instantly add depth and draw the viewers eye in. Look for objects like foliage, or pieces of the landscape to add to the front of the image.
New photographers tend to stay back a little too much, perhaps nervous, perhaps unsure of where to draw the line. While there are occasions to capture an entire scene, it’s good to get in close on some of the details too. For example, when taking a portrait, don’t capture the entire person, head to toe, every time. Shoot some from waist up, shoot some from the shoulders up, shoot some of just the face. The concept of getting closer applies to other subjects as well. Moving closer exemplifies details in still life, nature and many others.
Take a step back.
Wait, didn’t we just go over getting closer? Yes. But some images are better close-up, others are best when more of the scene is included, and sets of images should have a variety in the composition as well. When the scene around the subject isn’t interesting, get in close and use a shallow depth of field. But when the surroundings help to tell a story or otherwise add to the image, take a few steps back and capture the entire scene.
Too many elements in the image draw the focus away from the subject. Change your perspective to eliminate distracting elements, or zoom in closer to crop them out of the frame. Sometimes, you can even move elements out of the way. When that’s impossible, try using a shallow depth of field to at least blur the distractions.
Mix up the subject placement.
Sometimes, the subject is best placed off-center. But that’s not always the case, and using the same subject placement every time can get boring fast. So, how do you decide where to place the subject in the frame? Placing the main focus off to the right naturally draws the eye to any subject, since we read left to right. If the subject is looking in a certain direction, leave empty space in the direction they are looking. If the subject is moving, leave some empty space in the direction they are moving. And if following the rule of thirds just isn’t working for your particular shot, don’t be afraid to try putting the subject in the center.
Odd numbers tend to draw the eye more than even numbers. Why? It has to do having a middle—and there’s no middle to two birds sitting on a wire, but there is with three. Working with this same concept, when you have multiple subjects, try forming a triangle instead of a square or a straight line.