The 10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

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2. Fill the frame

When you’re shooting a large-scale scene it can be hard to know how big your subject should be in the frame, and how much you should zoom in by. In fact, leaving too much empty space in a scene is the most widespread compositional mistake. It makes your subject smaller than it needs to be and can also leave viewers confused about what they’re supposed to be looking at.

To avoid these problems you should zoom in to fill the frame, or get closer to the subject in question. The first approach flattens the perspective of the shot and makes it easier to control or exclude what’s shown in the background, but physically moving closer can give you a more interesting take on things.

Why it works…

Give your subject the prominence it deserves

1. Filling the frame makes the subject larger and cuts down on the clutter

2. The high, off-centre placement creates a more interesting scene

3. The rolling hills create an S-shaped curve that leads you across the frame

3. Aspect ratio

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and take every picture with the camera held horizontally. Try turning it to get a vertical shot instead, adjusting your position or the zoom setting as you experiment with the new style. You can often improve on both horizontal and vertical shots by cropping the photo later.

After all, it would be too much of a coincidence if all your real-life subjects happened to fit the proportions of your camera sensor. Try cropping to a 16:9 ratio for a widescreen effect, or to the square shape used by medium-format cameras.

Why it works…

Not sure whether horizontal of vertical is best? Try both!

1. You can crop the shot later if a subject is too tall to shoot – especially now camera’s over high resolution sensors

2. Turn the camera and try an upright shot to get different – and sometimes much improved – results

3. Remember that your camera’s aspect ratio might not be the same as the paper you intend to print on

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