Saturday, 19 December 2015

10 Common Composition Mistakes in Photography

Our tutorial today comes from Jose Aires,  and is a guide to a better composition when taking pictures. In it, Jose lists the 10 common mistakes photographers make.

1. Subject is positioned in the center of the frame

Sometimes a central subject works, but normally you would better shoot it positioned to one side, as explained in the "rule of thirds". Some cameras, if not many of them these days, are capable of showing a grid in the viewfinder or a screen with a "grid" that can help us split the scene into those thirds, horizontally and vertically. The main subject should be ideally positioned where those lines cross each other or in a full third, and the rest of the elements aligned with the grid lines.

Again, we have to mention that the rules of composition are a great aid to consider as a starting point, trying to move from centrally composed images, but keep in mind that sometimes it is worth trying to break the rules to innovate, to create something more interesting... let your feelings speak with you.

Cattle Egret Tony Murtagh
2. Subject is too small in the frame, therefore you ended up including too much in it

Although our brains are great at focusing on a subject and excluding its surroundings on a scene, that almost never happens when you look at an image. When taking a shot, always consider if it would look better if you get closer (or zoom in with your lens) so the subject fills the frame and clearly dominates the attention.

The more you include in a photograph, the more complex and difficult for the viewers is to understand and appreciate the idea that is trying to be conveyed.

3. There is nothing in the foreground

It is always a good idea to have something in the image foreground to give the shot depth, draw the viewer's eye and add scale, specially in a landscape or in a still life image. Do not waste this space telling nothing to the viewer.

Wood logs, rocks, flowers, tide marks in the sand or waves, for example, always add a little interest into the foreground. If you are arranging a still life scene, you should try to put something in the right place.
Ardlochy Bay - Tony Murtagh
4. Always shooting standing up or straight on

You must play with perspective! Get down to your knees, move to one side, lay dawn or get yourself to a higher point of view. Many of us get so worried about finding a subject that we forget to think about how we are going to photograph it. If you shoot a subject straight-on you will record its appearance, but you may fail to capture any context or atmosphere. Again, experimenting is key!

5. Including a bad background

We covered that in our tips for beginners, and we are going to highlight it again due to its importance. Always examine your photo background. We should not miss the clutter behind the subject, and it is an easy fix if we move to one side, pick a different angle, change our lens or use a wider aperture (to blur the background).

Get used to the habit of taking a good look around the scene before framing a shot to find the best background and shooting location.

6. Bad use of depth of field

Depth of field is an important and powerful tool for composition as it determines which elements are in focus (clearly visible) in the image, and draw our attention to them.

Shooting with a small aperture creates lots of depth of field, which is often desirable in landscapes and macros (it is needed here because of the shallow depth of field we get being too much closer to a subject), for instance, but if you want your subject to standout from its surrounding, it is usually better to shoot with a bigger aperture to restrict depth of field, specially in portraits or when you want to isolate the focal point from its surroundings.
European Roller - Tony Murtagh
7. Sloping horizons

We talked about this in the landscape vs horizon line post. A sloping horizon in a landscape or even behind a portrait or an isolated subject can be incredibly distracting so make sure it is levelled. Many cameras have a built-in electronic level that can be displayed in the viewfinder or on the main screen to guide you, but if not, there are some bubble level accessories you can fit into the camera hot-shoe (normally used for an external flash unit).

Also, many tripods have a level built-in if you are looking into buying one.

It is specially very important to make sure that your water photos look leveled, as a sloping horizon normally ruins a composition.

8. Blurred images due to small apertures and slow shutter speeds settings

We should really pay attention to this one, combined with the depth of field we are trying to get. Sometimes we are so worried about getting everything in focus that we set the aperture much too small, which calls in a need for a really slow shutter speed as a consequence.

Remember the aperture and shutter speed are closely linked to each other, they work together to keep in balance a good exposure. The more you close down the aperture (smaller opening, larger f-number (f/11 and beyond turns things difficult for a hand-held photography) the slower shutter speed will be required to keep the exposure balanced. If the shutter speed is too slow, you can either open up your aperture or increase the ISO, or both, until you reach the correct exposure.

9. No focal point

The main subject in a photograph should be effectively positioned and be the central point of interest in the composition (emphasized). We must draw the viewer's eye exactly to where we want. Size, color, shape and how the object contrasts with the rest of the elements in the image are ways to isolate and direct attention to it.

10. Not knowing where your camera controls and functions are

You MUST read your camera manual. Knowing your camera and all of its buttons and settings is vital. Being able to do that takes practice. As we said in top tips for beginners, you should be able to adjust ISO setting, shooting mode, focus point, exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed without taking the camera away from your eye. Believe us, it will make a difference in that photo you can not afford to miss!

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Article Source: 10 Common Composition Mistakes in Photography

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