If you’re looking to create amazing images, you might think that you need expensive gear or a new camera to get the results that you’re after. But one of the simplest ways that you can improve your images is by mastering the art of composition. A strong photography composition is one of the most fundamental, yet important aspects of photography, and is what helps to separate a snapshot from a high-quality image.
Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’re passionate about giving budding photographers and professionals alike the tools they need to create amazing outdoor images. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some tools and guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind. These tips will help you to capture breathtaking outdoor images of your own.
FIND YOUR FOCAL POINT
Strong compositions usually feature a solid focal point. With landscape images, this is often the vanishing point or disappearing point at the horizon.
Other times, though, the main focal point could be something that’s a bit closer. When creating your shots, try to find a main point of interest, be it a tree, a fence, a boulder or some interesting wildlife – and compose your image in a way that directs attention towards this point.
CONSIDER THE RULE OF THIRDS
There’s a reason the rule of thirds is a popular guideline that’s often used in landscape photography –it’s a good guideline for creating images that are interesting and dynamic. To use this rule, imagine that your image is divided into a grid, with three lines going down, and three lines across.
This rule calls for the main focal point to be placed over one of the intersecting points on the grid.
Balance is another important guideline. Before releasing the shutter, check to ensure that your composition is well-balanced. This means that if you have some elements positioned off to one side of the frame; you’ll usually want to try to include some other objects on the other side of the image as well, to help add visual balance.
LOOK FOR SYMMETRY
Similar to balance, you’ll also want to look for opportunities to create symmetry in your images as well. One of the best ways to do this is looking out for reflections that you can include in your compositions. For example, a bold mountain reflected in a smooth lake can be a great opportunity to create a pleasing and symmetrical image.
INCLUDE LEADING LINES
Leading lines are a helpful tool that can be used to direct attention to the photo or the main point of interest. You can look to include obvious leading lines such as rivers, roads, or fences in your landscape images, as well as more subtle ones such as the tops of a mountain range, a jagged coastline or fallen trees. Lines don’t have to be perfectly straight or linear; anything that directs the eye on through the photo will work.
FRAME YOUR IMAGE
Adding a “frame within a frame” in an image is a technique that can be used to enhance your compositions, adding context to your shots. When creating landscape images, look to create frames out of natural elements –by shooting through foliage, branches, or overhangs; and by looking for structural details, like fences or arches to include as frames for your images.
INCLUDE SOME FOREGROUND
Including foreground can help to set the stage for your compositions, providing some much-needed context to the image. It can also be used to add depth to a scene, helping it to appear more lifelike and real.
If you’re hoping to capture images that feature lots of prominent foreground, your best option is to use a wide-angle lens. Wide-angles cause objects in the foreground to appear wider and larger, and are ideal for times when you’re trying to capture images where the foreground takes center stage.
APPLY SOME COLOR THEORY
If you want to take your compositions up a notch, look out for eye-catching color schemes. One strategy is to look for complementary colors –colors that are located directly opposite from each other on a color wheel.
Complementary colors include groupings such as blue and orange, or red and green. These colors work well together, and often can result in contrasting and vibrant images. Analogous colors, hues that are located next to each other on the wheel, such as blue and green, can also make pleasing color combinations.
WATCH THE HORIZON
When composing your landscapes, watch the horizon. You’ll want to make sure it’s straight before you take your shot. In most cases, you’ll also want to avoid placing the horizon directly in the middle of the image – this could cause the image to look like it’s been cut in half. Instead, try to move the horizon up slightly to include more foreground, or down if you have an especially interesting sky that you’re hoping to capture.
LOOK FOR BEAUTIFUL LIGHTING
The right lighting can truly make a photo! You might not have control over the weather or lighting conditions, but you can time some trips so that you can arrive on-location at an ideal time.
The best lighting is often found in the early morning or evening –the time of day that’s known as Golden Hour. During this time of day, everything is awash in a beautiful golden hue; ideal for photography.
You’ll also want to look for dramatic lighting that’s often found just after a storm –dark clouds and light streaming down from the sky can make for some exciting photos. Take care, though, when photographing during full midday sun –this type of light can be difficult to work with. Use an ND filter, or a faster shutter speed to reduce the amount of light that reaches the sensor.
Finally, when presented with an especially exciting scene, you may feel tempted to try to fit everything in. But doing so can often result in an image that’s cluttered and busy. Before taking your image, ask yourself, “What’s interesting about that image; what’s the main point that I’m hoping to capture?”
Then, see if your image could be better served by simplifying your composition a bit. Removing unnecessary and distracting details can help you to tighten up your image, resulting in a much more powerful photograph.