Shoot Photos Like a Pro: Composition

Just getting started? Master these basic rules to improve all of your pictures.

Shoot Like a Pro: Cameras | Photo Editing Software | Exposure | Wildlife | Night | Action | Summits | Portraits | When to Shoot What | Landscapes – Water & Snow | Landscapes – Wide Angle, Zoom, & Macro | Composition | Photo Survival Guide | Shoot Like a Pro: Editing Digital Photos

» Clean your background. Position subjects against an uncluttered space, making sure that no branches intersect someone’s body or peaks rise out of your friend’s head. » Include a strong anchor in the foreground, such as the people in the photo at left, a cluster of flowers, or a boulder. This helps provide scale and creates leading lines that draw viewers into the image. “If you just shoot a mountain, it will end up too far away and too small,” advises photographer Tomas Kaspar.

» Make subjects pop. Place them against a contrasting background, like light rocks if they’re wearing dark clothing, or bright green moss if they’re wearing red.

» Use the rule of thirds. This adage is too often ignored as amateurs instinctively center their subjects. Imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines running across the frame; position your subject where the lines cross. Leave space for the subject to look or move into.

» Shoot at dawn and dusk. Low-angle, golden light creates texture and minimizes harsh contrast.

» Don’t forget to turn your camera. It’s no surprise that tall peaks lend themselves to vertical compositions, while coastlines make more sense horizontally. But try all scenes with both perspectives; you might find a surprise.

» Be selective. Your photo needs a strong theme—don’t try to fit everything into one shot.