In this 12.5-minute video and article, I’ll share 7 of the composition tricks that I use in the field all the time. First of all, let me say that composition is difficult. It is, without a doubt, the hardest part of photography. But there are some things that you can be doing in the field that can help.
I don’t mean the intersection of the thirds or odd numbers — those are rules and made to be broken. I mean tips that are practical and will help you in the field.
Here they are:
1. Think about the height of your tripod as it dictates the amount of mid-ground in the scene.
I usually shoot at eye height as it helps with the depth perception in the scene. These shots were taken at eye height.
2. Avoid the drop off in the scene.
We often see people stood on cliff edges in landscapes (especially on Instagram!). With a person that works well as they connect you to the view. But when you remove the person that changes. Think carefully about how you compose the scene with a big drop off without a person. It is always good to have foreground, mid-ground, and distance that are connected through the image.
3. If it doesn’t add to the image remove it.
This seems like a simple tip but I guarantee that the next time you are out you will be able to find something in your shot to remove. A simple crop or move can often help.
4. The longer the lens the easier the composition.
How often do you get out your 16mm lens only to struggle with composition? It happens to me all the time as it means you have more elements to connect together. Try using a longer lens and isolate elements in the landscape and it will massively help you.
The wide shot is good and it works but isn’t as strong an image as the 150mm shot.
5. Think about the bottom 3rd of the frame (especially with wide-angle).
If you do use a wide-angle then think about the bottom third of the frame as it needs to be simple elements are repeating patterns to help the viewer get into the image.
In this image, the grasses lead you into the image.
6. Create separation of elements.
It is really important to have a separation of elements in a photo. This isn’t a rule you have to stick to but if you think about it then it helps most photos.
Take these two tree shots (actually taken on an iPhone). The one where I got lower in this case helped to separate the tree from the ones in the background and create a stronger shot.
7. Move to the left or right to create a diagonal.
A small movement to the left or right can help create a strong diagonal in a scene. Try it next time you have a road, fence, or any other leading line. It works really well with a wide-angle lens.
About the author: Nigel Danson is a landscape photographer based in the UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Danson’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.