Composition is a very subjective thing in some ways, but in other ways there are some straightforward rules that will give you a head start. I’ve already explained some basics, such as the Rule of Thirds. This is another helpful principle to guide your composition.
Effective Composition: Reduce, reduce, reduce
Very often it is what you exclude from your composition that makes for a great image, not what you put in. The clichÃ© picture is that of a family portrait with a ‘tree growing out of someone’s head’! It reminds us that we usually fail to ‘see’ anything in the viewfinder except the subject that we want to photograph. The more we concentrate on the subject, the less we see of the environment that the subject is in.
Did you notice that piece of rubbish on the ground behind your subject? It will be instantly obvious when you look at the photo later! What about that passer by with the bright red coat? You can see a spot of red in the background of a photograph even when you barely notice it in the viewfinder! Wait for vehicles, people and pets to pass by unless you want to include them in the image. Feel free to tidy up around your subject. And keep an eye out for litter bins to exclude them from your shots too, they’re useful, but not often pretty!
Use a shallow depth of field
One useful tip is to use a shallow depth of field so that as much of the image as possible is out of focus, apart from the subject itself.
Look for a blank canvas
Day to day living is full of clutter: people and things that surround us. In order to make something stand out the simple solution is to place your subject against a blank canvas. One of the features of our local beach is that it is featureless! This makes finding a subject a problem, but it makes for a wonderful blank canvas. In the image above I deliberately shot out to sea with nothing but the solitary foreground object in view. The subject isn’t particularly interesting, but because there is nothing else for the eye to focus on it is drawn to the single object. The result is a striking but simple composition: simple colour scheme, simple lines, and a solitary subject.