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by Bart Arondson

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Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art.

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70
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20answers
12k views

Why do breathtaking views turn into “boring” photos, and how can I do better?

I recently purchased a Canon 700D with a 18-135 IS lens to get into photography. I'm trying to improve, but my photos seem 'boring'. Let me give some examples: I took these today. The scenery ...
58
votes
6answers
12k views

How to make female chest look bigger?

When photographing women they often want the chest to appear as big as possible. I tried with light coming from different positions but was not satisfied with the results. Are there any tricks to ...
52
votes
9answers
39k views

What is the 'Golden Ratio' and why is it better than the 'Rule of Thirds?'

Somebody recently told me that I will be able to compose more pleasing pictures if I use the Golden Ratio instead of the Rule of Thirds, and that the Rule of Thirds was an inferior way to compose ...
41
votes
15answers
3k views

Can anyone suggest books/resources on the artistic side of photography?

I am a relatively new photographer. I have no problem understanding the technical side of photography (I am an engineer by trade), but I do struggle with the more 'artistic' side of photography ...
41
votes
2answers
9k views

What is the Rule of Odds?

In furthering my reading on photographic composition I came across a compositional technique called the "Rule of Odds." What is the "Rule of Odds"? Why is it important? How do I apply it to my ...
37
votes
4answers
4k views

How can I get photos showing the “shaft of light” effect?

I would like to be able to capture a photo which shows light shafts coming through the window. A famous example is this: I'm guessing this involves a tripod, a long exposure and strong sunlight, ...
36
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the “Rule of Thirds”?

Please can someone explain the "Rule of Thirds"? What is it? What does it tell me? Why is it important? What can I do with it?
32
votes
6answers
3k views

Why take diagonal photos?

In the "old days" I sometimes composed my photos diagonally, but I've not had success doing that in the "modern" era, because there's not really any nice way to present it digitally. Is there a ...
32
votes
3answers
1k views

How can I show a slope? Even mountain roads appear flat in my photos

During a bicycle trip, I wanted to take a pic to show how sharp the slope was (about 20%). The same applies downhill. See below, the viewer can't really tell whether it is downhill or flat or uphill: ...
29
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4answers
3k views

What is the 'Diagonal Method' and should I use it instead of 'The Rule of Thirds?'

I recently was in a discussion with a photography mentor who asserted that over the years he has composed most of his award-winning and/or 'most popular' photographs using the 'Diagonal Method,' and ...
26
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6answers
4k views

How do I keep the horizon straight when taking a photo (without a tripod)?

I use a DSLR and I very often find that when I shoot without a tripod, and with my eye to the viewfinder (as opposed to using LiveView), my photos end up slightly crooked: lines that should be ...
26
votes
2answers
1k views

What is Bakker's Saddle?

I was perusing a book called "Success in Print Competition for Professional Photographers" and one section referred to a composition technique called Bakker's Saddle. Three related questions: What ...
25
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5answers
1k views

How to create an eye-path?

Reading about photography, I have now and then stumbled on recommendations to "create a path for viewer's eye", or to "lead it through the picture" without any specific guidelines how to achieve that. ...
24
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3answers
4k views

What is Lead Room?

Continuing to educate about basic compositional techniques, What is "Lead Room?" Why is it important to consider Lead Room when taking pictures? When do I apply it to my photography?
23
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3answers
2k views

What makes a strong wide-angle composition?

A simple, effective way to improve most compositions is to crop (or zoom) more tightly. Cut out the "distractions", and boom, powerful composition. I usually shoot with a slightly-long lens in the ...
20
votes
5answers
940 views

How to capture the scale of a scene?

My framing in the following photo completely failed to capture the sheer height of the waterfall. If you don't know I was standing at the top of the waterfall, and the "splinters" at the bottom are ...
20
votes
4answers
4k views

Tips for taking headshot self-portraits?

I need to do some headshots of myself for a gig I have coming up. My initial thought was to use a plain light background (as you see in many studio shots), but I've had some advice to use a dark ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

When is it OK to place the subject in the middle of a picture?

When is it OK to place the subject in the middle of a picture? I took this picture and feel very compelled to put the subject in the centre rather than on the sides.
17
votes
3answers
461 views

What things should one take into account when looking at cropping a photo?

When looking at cropping a photo: How do you decide whether to crop it or not (for starters)? What things should you take into account - both practical and artistic? I guess that this question is ...
16
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5answers
3k views

Tricks for a good “jumping” picture?

Too many jumping pictures can be annoying, but I would like to once in a while be able to make a good one. Here is a bad one: What characteristics make a jump picture impressive? How to reach ...
16
votes
4answers
885 views

How does histogram shape affect the aesthetics of a picture?

For having more contrast in an image, it's good to have a wide range (i.e. difference between highest and lowest) of light intensities in a picture; and for keeping details, neither highlights nor ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Is it better to have light come from the left side?

In this comment to a question about composing landscape photographs, Esa Paulasto says About the direction of light, whenever you have a choice in it, have the light come from left side. I have ...
14
votes
5answers
672 views

How to make transparent liquid on white porcelain visible?

I made a picture for the cooking.SE blog: If you look very hard, in the middle, below the vanilla bean tip, is a small spill of synthetic vanilla essence (which is almost colorless, not dark like ...
14
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1answer
257 views

How to plan the composition of astrophotography?

I want to shoot the Milky Way, some constellations, and planets. I want to include some natural landscapes in these photos, similar to these: ...
13
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5answers
528 views

How can I make interesting photographs of interesting things found on the streets?

I was walking through streets of San Francisco and found this interesting advertisement: The subject is obviously interesting, but the image here is very straightforward and feels comparatively ...
13
votes
4answers
771 views

Why doesn't auto-focus work with an all-white subject (like a wall)?

I am trying to compose a shot using my Nikon D60 and 18-55mm lens towards a white wall in a auto-focus mode. It looks like I am not able to take the photo. I feel the camera is not able to find any ...
13
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6answers
812 views

What are the main things to avoid in photographic composition?

Considering only the frame and it's content, putting the issues of color rendering, sharpness, exposition, brightness, contrast, optical aberration, unpleasant flash/noise aside. I think of: ...
13
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5answers
1k views

Can photographic composition rules be used in cinematography?

We all know that photographic composition has certain rules like the rule of thirds, diagonal lines, etc. I am wondering whether those same rules can be applied in cinematography. Can they? I ...
13
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0answers
663 views

Good books to learn photographic composition from?

One of the tough things to learn in photographie is composition. What good books (or other sources) can you recommend to learn and hone your compositional skills?
12
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6answers
1k views

What's wrong with portrait orientation?

When I first showed my photos to relatively wide audience online, several photographers commented about the amount of portrait-oriented shots. The essense was that I should take more ...
12
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3answers
1k views

When should the negative space not be used to bring attention to a subject?

Considering http://photo.stackexchange.com/a/21378/5205 I tried to bring attention to this bud by leaving a lot of space on the right, but nearly everyone told me to crop that space off. ...
12
votes
6answers
5k views

What is the best approch to photographing a mirror or other highly reflective surface?

I have been asked by a client to take some product photographs of some vintage mirrors that they would like to sell and I am struggling with getting good clear shots of the mirrors. As such, what is ...
12
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5answers
667 views

Where could I find a detailed reference on all composition rules?

I am looking for a good advanced reference about photographic/cinematographic composition rules. I have already checked this post: Good books to learn photographic composition from? but it doesn't ...
12
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2answers
653 views

What is headroom as it relates to photographic composition?

With photographic composition I often hear people talk about 'leaving enough headroom' for portrait photographs. What is headroom? How can I properly apply it to my photographs? What are the ...
11
votes
6answers
6k views

What are the advantages of shooting a particular aspect ratio?

My camera can shoot in 4 different aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1). Aside from personal preference of composition are there any advantages to choosing one over the other? Is there an industry ...
11
votes
4answers
537 views

How can I get people to take an expression which fits the scene?

I have heard that there are specific indirect questions that can be used to get people to be more natural in front of a camera. Many people, who have many expressions to offer, when put in front of a ...
11
votes
4answers
964 views

What are connotations of horizontal and vertical lines in composition?

From my question on diagonal dominance I learned that diagonals are used in many subtle ways, like guiding viewer's eye, expressing depth or energy. How do horizontal and vertical lines affect ...
11
votes
2answers
836 views

What is a negative space in a photograph?

From here: http://1x.com/forum/photo-critique/31871 you have far too much negative space so the eye goes toward the back...of the picture, and there is not much to see there...either. What ...
11
votes
3answers
7k views

How can I improve my photographs taken on overcast or cloudy days?

I'm interested in filters, flash & lighting options, composition, and post processing. Is it possible to get really vibrant colors or should I give up on that and focus on dreary, muted, or black ...
10
votes
6answers
643 views

What can I do to improve my composition on rejected food photos?

I have been working on improving my food photography skills to raise the overall look of my blog. I am shooting with a Sony A100 often a 50mm in natural light. I think I am doing pretty well so far ...
10
votes
4answers
646 views

What is the meaning of these Photodune reasons for rejection?

I wanted some advice, I am new to photography, I posted an image on Photodune for sale and it was rejected because of: Element or framing composition Noise, exposure, lighting or saturation ...
10
votes
4answers
363 views

What are the key things that distinguish stock photography from other types?

What are the key features of stock photography that distinguishes it from other types of photography, or is there a fair amount of overlap between them (i.e. a good photograph can be fine art and ...
10
votes
4answers
946 views

When should I break the rule of thirds?

When photographers talk about the rule of thirds, they say sometimes they will break the rule and still the photo will have great composition. When should I stick with the rule of thirds and when ...
10
votes
6answers
418 views

Why is the Rule of Thirds rarely followed in macro?

I've never (or rarely at least) seen a macro photo which follows the rule of thirds. Is it hard to compose macro photographs using the rule of thirds?
10
votes
3answers
525 views

What are other popular composition techniques in addition to The Rule of Thirds?

I always hear a lot about The Rule of Thirds. I'd like to know more about other 'tried-and-true' composition techniques (not special effects) that can make a photo more interesting. In particular, ...
10
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1answer
460 views

Is there a name for the type of portrait composition where the subject is looking out of the frame?

I'm wondering if there's a specific term to describe a portrait where the main subject is looking at something outside the frame that we (the viewer) can't see. I like it as a composition technique: I ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

How to photograph an adult and a child together such that the adult doesn't dominate the scene?

I have taken the following photographs myself in different frames of time. I have been told that in the below pictures, the man "dominates" the scene. How should I take these kind of photos such that ...
9
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6answers
319 views

Aside from sharpness & speed, what are the benefits to photo composition\optical quality provided by premium lenses over their cheaper counterpart?

I have gone through quite a few lens reviews and questions on this site that recommend expensive lenses over their cheaper counterparts. From what I've seen in the reviews, there is a marked ...
9
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4answers
1k views

How do quirks of the human vision system affect photography?

When looking out at the world through our eyes, it's easy to take for granted that our perceptions are an absolute rendering of How Things Are. But in fact, it's not quite as simple as that. Most of ...
9
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8answers
491 views

How do I get myself to think about every shot using modern digital equipment?

In today's age of fully automated digital cameras, I find it difficult to seriously think about every picture I take before I press the shutter button. The experience is, from what I can tell, ...