Follow the rule of thirds
This technique is a classic staple of great photography. In your mind’s eye, place an imaginary grid on top of the photo you’re composing. The grid divides the image into thirds, vertically and horizontally. A well-framed image will follow the rule of thirds by putting something important at one of the intersecting lines of the grid. When photographing landscapes, line up the horizon with either the top or bottom horizontal grid line. Bonus: most smartphones give you the option to add a visible grid to your screen while shooting photos.
In this powerful portrait, the photographer draws our attention to the child by placing him in the left third of the picture, with his face (the main focus of the image) exactly on the top left third of the picture. By putting the boy in the left side of the picture, we can’t help but look to the right, where he’s looking, which creates a feeling of sharing in his experience.
Use symmetry & leading lines
Symmetrical pictures have two parts or halves that are similar or identical in size, shape or position. This simple approach can give your photos an artistic, striking quality: Imagine two beach chairs with an umbrella between them, or the reflection of a mountain in a lake. Similarly, leading lines can help make your photo more interesting by drawing the viewer’s eye towards the subject of the picture. Horizons, fences, stair rails, pathways and building architecture make effective and dramatic leading lines.
This image demonstrates both symmetry and leading lines. The two halves of the picture mirror each other, creating perfect symmetry; meanwhile, the lines point towards the subject in the center. When framing photos, notice where the leading lines are pointing and put your subject there, or at a symmetrical intersection point, like in the photo above.
Create negative space
Negative space is a lot more positive than it sounds. Generally, the term refers to a large expanse of open space that isn’t taken up by the subject. In portraits, it’s the space that surrounds your subject, but in other types of pictures it can just refer to any large amount of empty space. Don’t be afraid to use negative space to make your photo really stand out. It’s okay to let your subject take up only a small amount of the photo if it draws more attention to them, framing them without distraction. It will make the rest of the photo, whether it has a person in it or not, much more dramatic. Combine negative space with the rule of thirds or symmetry and you’ll strike photographic gold!
This picture combines negative space (a big empty sky) with the rule of thirds (horizon line at the bottom third of the image). It also incorporates leading lines: Our eyes follow the waterline across the shot to the small people on the left. By making the environment really big and the people really small, the photographer ensures that you feel the vastness of the beach.
You may not realize it, but the midday sun is
probably a photographer’s worst enemy. Bright, overhead light creates dark
shadows that make eyes look black and sunken in. But with a little creative
thinking, even bright daylight can work to your advantage. Make the most of the
high-contrast lighting (extreme lights and darks) by taking photos of different
shadow shapes. If you’re determined to photograph a face under harsh light, pay
attention to where the light and shadows are landing, working with it to create
a dramatic effect. Have your subject stand somewhere slightly shaded to help
soften the lighting.
To avoid the bright sunlight, this photographer had the subject
sit beneath some tree branches. When it’s hard to find perfectly even shade,
use the effect of dappled sunlight to add interesting texture in your picture.
Because this girl is mostly shaded, we can see her beautiful eyes and skin,
which look soft without any harsh shadows under her eyes.
Capture the golden hour and
time of day to take photos will always be the golden hour, which is the hour immediately
after sunrise or before sunset. The light is soft and gives everything an
amazing glow. Observe your subject from different angles to see how the light
changes when it hits them from the side versus directly. Golden hours are also
the perfect time to create dramatic silhouettes. To photograph a silhouette, place
the strongest light source so it’s directly behind the subject that you want to
appear as blacked out. The next steps are to make sure that your camera is
exposing for the brightest part of the picture instead of the subject, and that
your flash is off. If your camera is on auto, you might have to first push the
shutter halfway down while pointing the lens at the bright sky to recalibrate
exposure for bright light sources. Then reframe your picture the way you want
it and shoot the silhouette.
The photographer created the silhouetted shape of a
surfer by putting the subject between his camera and the sun. The addition of
negative space around the silhouette makes the picture more dramatic and
memorable. If your camera keeps making the picture too bright, try switching to
the “spot” or “centered” metering mode so that you can trick the camera into
exposing for the brightest part of the picture.
Click on through to find out more about the best type of camera for you.