Top 3 Composition Tips for Better Photos

Great composition is perhaps the one thing that separates great photographers from average picture-takers.

Composition is essential for creating visually appealing and impactful photographs.

Composition is the reason I set my camera up on a tripod before asking someone else to press the shutter button for our family pictures.

So I want to take a look at three concepts that can drastically improve the pictures you take. These few key principles can transform ordinary scenes into extraordinary images.

Rule of Thirds with Bride in Wedding Picture1. Use the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most fundamental principles in photography composition. It involves dividing your frame into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. The idea is to place your subject along these lines or at their intersections.

Another variation of this rule (and the one that I use the most often), is to place the subject in the left third or the right third of the image rather than directly on one of those dividing lines.

This creates a more balanced and engaging image, as opposed to centering your subject, which often results in a static, less interesting photo.

Pro Tip: Many cameras and smartphones have a grid overlay feature that can be activated in the settings. Turn on this grid to help you visualize and apply the rule of thirds more easily while composing your shots. You should only have to do this for a short while before you naturally use the rule of thirds without thinking about it.

2. Incorporate Leading Lines

Leading lines are lines within a photo that guide the viewer’s eye through the image, often towards the main subject. These lines can be roads, rivers, fences, architectural elements, or anything else. Leading lines not only add depth and perspective to your photos but also help create a sense of direction and flow.

When composing your shot, look for natural or man-made lines that lead toward your subject within the frame. Position yourself and your camera in a way that these lines start from the edges of the frame and lead inward, drawing the viewer’s attention to the subject.

Pro Tip: Practice finding leading lines in everyday settings. Start with obvious ones like roads and paths, and then challenge yourself to find more subtle lines in less apparent places, such as shadows or patterns in nature.

Leading Lines in Engagement Picture

3. Frame Your Subject

Framing involves using elements within the scene to create a “frame” around your main subject. This technique draws attention to your subject and adds context to the scene.

Frames can be found in nature (such as tree branches or archways) or can be man-made (such as doorways or windows). Framing can add depth and layers to your photo, making it more visually compelling.

To utilize framing, position yourself so that the elements in the scene form a natural border around your subject. This not only focuses attention on the subject but also gives the viewer a sense of the environment in which the subject is located.

Pro Tip: Experiment with different types of frames. Try using foreground objects like leaves or architectural features to create a frame within a frame, adding an extra dimension to your photos.

Foreground Framing in Wedding Picture

Summary

Here’s my challenge for you. Take one of these three compositional elements and try to incorporate it into your photography for a while. Then try another one.

Once you know how to apply these techniques, you will also know when it is appropriate not to use them. For example, you can break the rule of thirds and place your subject right in the center of your frame if you have leading lines that would draw your attention to the center.

Eventually, these things become natural. In fact, it’s amazing how many times I will take a picture, set my camera down, and then pick my camera up and take the same picture with the exact same framing, depth, etc. It’s because I instinctively apply these concepts to the extent that I know what I want and can do it over and over again without thinking.

Practice these techniques regularly to develop your own compositional skills and take your photography to the next level!

Which of these techniques were you already aware of, and which ones do you need to practice?

3 Tips for Taking Great Pictures in the Spring

Spring is an amazing time to take pictures because of all of the wonderful colours coming back to life. As the world awakens from the slumber of winter (especially here in Minnesota where I live), vibrant colors, blooming flowers, and longer daylight hours present countless opportunities to capture stunning images.

Even if you’re not a professional photographer, there are just too many picturesque subjects to capture in the spring. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I had my actual nice camera with me and not just my phone!

So here are three ideas to take better pictures in the spring.

IRBC Golden Hour Over the Lake1. Embrace the Golden Hour

The golden hour—one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset—offers the most beautiful lighting conditions for photography. It’s one of my favourite times to schedule photo shoots, go on a walk/run, or read my Bible. The soft, warm light during these times enhances colors and adds a dreamy quality to your photos.

It’s God’s best light, in my opinion. In spring, this light can highlight the fresh greens of new leaves, the vivid hues of flowers, and any colour of skin tone if you’re taking pictures of people.

To capture the best golden hour shots, plan your outings around these times. Wake up early to catch the sunrise or set aside time in the evening for sunset. Look for subjects that benefit from backlighting, such as flowers, trees, or people, to create a glowing effect. Golden hour reflections on water are also stunning.

If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, use a wide aperture (low f-number) to create a shallow depth of field, making your subject stand out against the softly lit background.

Pro Tip: Use a smartphone app or check online for the exact times of sunrise and sunset in your location. This will help you plan your time more precisely and ensure you don’t miss the golden hour.

2. Capture the Details

Spring is all about the details—the delicate petals of a blooming flower, the texture of newly sprouted leaves, or the intricate patterns of a butterfly’s wings. Macro photography is an excellent way to capture these details and showcase the season’s beauty up close.

If you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, invest in a macro lens or extension tubes for your camera to get those extreme close-up shots. If you’re using a smartphone, consider purchasing clip-on macro lenses, but I found that many phones these days have excellent macro capabilities.

Blue FlowersWhen shooting, pay attention to your background and ensure it complements your subject without being distracting. Use a tripod to keep your phone or camera steady, especially when shooting with a narrow aperture for a greater depth of field.

Focus on finding interesting compositions and angles. Get down to the level of your subject, experiment with different perspectives, and don’t be afraid to get close.

I find this especially true when taking pictures of flowers. The closer you get, the more details you can reveal, making your photos more captivating.

Pro Tip: Bring a small spray bottle filled with water to create the look of morning dew on flowers and plants. This can add an extra element of freshness and beauty to your macro shots.

3. Play with Color

From the green of the trees and the grass to the bright yellows of daffodils to the soft pinks of cherry blossoms, colour is everywhere. Take advantage of this natural palette by incorporating vibrant colors into your compositions.

Look for contrasting colors that can make your subject pop, such as purple flowers against green foliage or a blue sky backdrop.

When composing your shots, consider the color wheel and how different hues interact. Complementary colors (those opposite each other on the color wheel) create strong visual contrasts, while analogous colors (those next to each other) produce harmonious and pleasing images.

Additionally, pay attention to the weather. Overcast days can provide soft, even lighting that enhances colors without harsh shadows. I always tell people that overcast days are my favourite days to take pictures. I especially like overcast skies on wedding days!

After a rain shower, the colors can appear more saturated and vibrant, adding an extra level of interest to your photos. You might even have the privilege of seeing a rainbow! So get outside on those rainy days too.

Pro Tip: Keep a polarizing filter handy for your interchangeable lenses. It can help reduce glare and reflections while enhancing the colors in your photos, making the sky bluer and the foliage greener. I have a couple of these filters and just don’t use them enough!

Summary

Spring offers a unique and vibrant canvas for anyone who likes to take pictures. Embrace the golden hour, capture intricate details, and play with the season’s abundant colors, and you can create great images regardless of the equipment that you use.

Grab your phone or camera, head outside, and let the magic of God’s creation during spring inspire you!

Do you take a lot of pictures in the spring?

Do These 3 Things Every Day to Elevate Your Photography

Photography has changed the lives of millions of people, myself included. Pictures tell stories and preserve memories for a lifetime.

In this digital age where we can take a picture and make it available to the whole world in less than 10 seconds, we all have the ability to tell these stories and preserve these memories for ourselves.

Not only that, but photography allows you to capture the beauty in everyday moments. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned photographer or just starting out, finding inspiration in the ordinary can lead to some of the most compelling images.

In fact, I got my start as a photographer by taking hundreds of pictures of everyday moments, not as a portrait photographer or as an artist.

So I want to help you improve your photography with three tips that can help you find and capture those everyday moments with skill and creativity.

Huang Family Framed by Grass1. Find Beauty in Ordinary Moments

One of the most powerful aspects of photography is its ability to transform the mundane into something extraordinary. The key to capturing beautiful everyday photos is to train your eye to see the potential in ordinary moments.

Look around your daily environment and focus on the small details that often go unnoticed. It could be the way sunlight filters through your kitchen window in the morning, the pattern of raindrops on a windowpane, or the way shadows create interesting shapes on the ground.

A month ago I was at a sculpture park with my family, and I set my phone down on the ground with the selfie camera still on. The perspective was so unique that I left the phone in the grass, got my family within the frame, and took the picture. I love how it turned out! Now it just needs a little editing to fix the lighting.

Pro Tip: Keep your camera or smartphone with you at all times. Being prepared allows you to seize unexpected opportunities and capture fleeting moments that you might otherwise miss. Practice shooting from different angles and perspectives to find unique compositions that highlight the beauty in everyday scenes.

This is what I did while I was a college and seminary student. I carried my DSLR to every single class, every single meal, and every single event. It was one of the best decisions I ever made as a photographer. Today I carry my Google Pixel 1 with me everywhere because it has a nice camera.

2. Experiment with Different Angles and Perspectives

Changing your viewpoint can dramatically alter the impact of a photograph. Instead of always shooting from eye level, try to get low to the ground (like the accidental perspective of the picture at the sculpture park) or find a higher vantage point. Experimenting with different angles can add depth and interest to your photos, making them stand out.

Try taking pictures through other objects, like the leaves on a tree or people in a room. Adding foreground elements always adds context and interest to photos.

Pro Tip: Start by photographing the same subject from multiple angles. For example, if you’re photographing a coffee cup on a table, try shooting from above for a flat lay effect, from the side to capture the cup’s shape, and from a low angle to include the surrounding environment. This exercise will help you see how different perspectives can change the story your photo tells. This is also how people take normal items and turn them into beautiful collages that you find in the homes of the wealthy!

Baby Jocelyn with a Smartphone3. Practice Regularly to Improve Your Skills

Like any other art form, photography requires practice to improve. The more you shoot, the better you’ll become at recognizing good composition, understanding light, and capturing compelling images. Make a habit of taking photos every day, even if it’s just with your smartphone. Regular practice will help you develop your unique style and refine your technical skills.

Even if you are interested in exploring or specializing in a specific type of photography, still take the time to take pictures of anything and everything because it will help you better understand the elements that make a good photograph.

Pro Tip: Set yourself small photography challenges to keep things interesting and push your creative boundaries. For instance, you could focus on a different theme each week, such as shadows, reflections, or color. By giving yourself these mini-projects, you’ll stay motivated and continuously improve your skills.

Summary

Embracing everyday photography is all about finding beauty in the ordinary and capturing it in a way that resonates with others. By training your eye to see the potential in daily moments, experimenting with different angles and perspectives, and practicing regularly, you’ll not only improve your photography skills but also gain a deeper appreciation for the world around you.

You will also be able to take better pictures of those random people you meet who ask you to take a quick picture of them with their phone 😉

So, grab your camera or smartphone and start exploring the endless photographic opportunities that await in your everyday life.

Do you plan to implement any of these ideas?