Composition Tips

Here are some photos I took at the San Diego Safari Park, or what used to be called the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Before

After

You might want to click to view the larger size to see the difference. Which of the first two do you like better? Why?

Well, in this case they are both from the same photograph. In the Before photo, the subject is dead center. There is a composition rule in photography called “Rule of Thirds” which says a photograph will be more interesting if the subject is in a third of the photograph. In order to visualize this, picture a tic-tac-toe grid is laid over what you see through your viewfinder. If you put your subject at any intersection points of your grid, you’re following the rule of thirds. Some cameras have the ability to show this grid while you’re taking the photo.

In this case, I didn’t follow this rule when I took the photo. When I was looking at this on my computer, I thought it was showing too much background. Another tip, is to fill the frame with your subject. I decided to crop this photo, as shown in the After, to both remove some of the background and move the subject to the the right third of the frame

Before

After

Another “rule” is that the eye is attracted to the lightest part of the photograph first. In this Before photo of a mother & child, the lightest part of the photograph is the ground and right side of the mother. This brightness is a result of taking the photograph at noon on a sunny day. If I had taken this either earlier in the day or closer to sunset, the light would have been different. This is why you often hear that the best time to photograph outside is around sunrise or sunset. It is not always possible so you’re left with trying to fix it with post processing. I cropped this photograph to remove as much of the bright side of the photo as I could. I also used my photo editing software to darker that side.

Before

After

In this before photo, the subject is the gorilla, but I’ve got branches from a tree popping into the edges. If there was more of the tree visible, than it it would look like an intentional part of the gorilla’s environment. Instead it’s a distraction. It is a good idea before clicking the shutter button, to look around the edges of the frame to make sure there are no distracting elements. I could have cropped this so that I eliminated just the branches, but what I really wanted was the face.

Before

After

In this before photo, I had boosted my exposure compensation (topic for another time) to get detail in the black animals, but it results in the rocks and background being very over exposed. My initial plan was to crop the bottom of the photo to remove the bright rocks, but when I zoomed in on the baby and saw it’s eyes, I knew that was what I wanted my subject to be.

To see more photos from the day, checkout my SmugMug gallery

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