Almost all photographers, amateurs & professionals alike, have at least one thing in common -- virtually every picture they take could be better. For the professionals, it's their business to get as close to perfection as possible, but even the best photographers can find something to improve in almost every shot. With this in mind, a simple thought that can lead to consistently better pictures is look before you leap! In the final instant before you snap the shutter take a quick glance at your scene & look for things to improve. Even if you find you don't have time to make improvements this time, you'll find that by incorporating this one habit into your picture taking, your images will begin to improve -- consistently!
Now that you know to take one last look before you shoot, let's talk about some of the principles of composition that will help you make your pictures better: The photographs you admire in exhibits may look like chance shots, but few of them are. They are created by, learning and then making careful use of some basic principles of composition. Photographic composition is simply the selection & arrangement of subjects within the picture area. After you learn the basic rules, you'll realize that most pictures with good composition are the result of careful planning, patient waiting, or a quick sensing of the best moment to take the picture. But it's easier than it sounds. You'll find that the rules of composition will become part of your thinking when you are looking for pictures, & soon they will become second nature to you. Here are some of them:
GUIDELINES TO BETTER PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPOSITION
SIMPLICITY - the most important guideline. Look for ways to give the center of interest in your picture the most visual attention. Select uncomplicated backgrounds, avoid unrelated subjects, and move in close.
RULE OF THIRDS - Imagine your picture area divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The intersections of these imaginary lines suggest four options for the placing the center of interest for good composition. Try to place horizon lines and verticals off center to make the picture more effective.
LINES - Diagonal lines are dynamic! Use lines to lead your eye into the main subject. Repetitive lines draw a viewer's attention to your center of interest. One of the most common and graceful lines used in composition is called the s curve. Use simple geometric lines and shapes to help arrange your picture. Triangles add strong visual unity to pictures.
BALANCE - good balance is simply the arrangement of shapes, colors, or areas of light and dark that complement one another. Symmetrical balance is like even balanced scales. Non symetrical balance in general is more interesting to look.
FRAMING YOUR SUBJECTS - For an added creative dimension, compose your pictures with an interesting foreground frame, such as a tree, a leafy branch, or a window. Try to choose a frame that links thematically with the subject such as a garden trellis framing a flower scene.
AVOIDING MERGERS - We see things in three dimensions, the camera flattens these views and mergers appear and distract the viewer.
STRONG CENTER OF INTEREST - It is usually best to have one main point of interest because a picture can tell only one story successfully. And, whatever the main subject is, always give it prominence in the photo to make all other elements subordinate to it.
USE THE BEST CAMERA ANGLE- Good pictures usually depend on selecting the proper point of view. You may need to move your camera only a few inches or a few feet to change the composition decidedly. When you want to photograph a subject, don't just walk up to it & snap the shutter. Walk around & look at it from all angles; then select the best camera angle for the picture.
FILL THE FRAME - One of the most frequent problems in amateur pictures is not being close enough. As a general rule, the closer you get to the subject, the better your pictures will be. Getting close helps eliminate distracting picture elements that do not contribute to the composition. This is especially true in people pictures where some background information is necessary to help set the scene & make the picture interesting, but is not the main subject & shouldn't dominate the composition.
Exposure & Environments?
As you gain experience in picture taking you will recognize that one of the key challenges in photography is knowing your environment! If you are to control the outcome of your efforts you must develop an understanding of light, exposure control, depth of field & focus to name a few.
Light on film in a traditional camera or the CCD in a digital camera creates the image! This fundamental fact of photography clearly points out the need to understand light & how it affects the success of your pictures. Much of your understanding of light will come from experience, by observing lighting conditions as you photograph & then correlating your observations with the results. In doing so you will come to understand light.
Light has a "quality" to it & you have a degree of control over that quality. "Soft" diffuse light has a different quality than harsh direct light, & through the use of diffusers & filters, you have some control over the softness of the light you use. In some shots, harsh light is very creative, but for other shots a softer light works best. & in outdoor photography, waiting until a different time of the day can change the whole mood of a shot as the quality of the light changes. Observe this & work to use it to your advantage.