Composition Explained

Composition is the arrangement of your picture: the interplay between foreground and background, the way the subject fills the frame, the way the parts of the picture relate to each other, and so on. Before pressing the shutter, veteran photographers compose pictures by asking themselves a few questions:

Will the shot be clearer, better, or more interesting if you move closer? What about walking around to the other side of the action, or zooming in slightly, or letting tall grass fill the foreground? Would the picture be more interesting if it were framed by horizontal, vertical, or diagonal structures (such as branches, pillars, or a road stretching away)?

It's easy to think, "Hey, it's a picture, not a paintingI have to shoot what's there." Maybe so, but you have more control over the composition than you realize. Photography is every bit as creative as painting.

Tip: If your photographic ambition is to take casual vacation pictures, some of the following suggestions for professional composition may strike you as overkill. But read them anyway. If some of these tips rub off on you, you can apply them even in everyday snapshot situations. There's no law against casual vacation pictures being good casual vacation pictures.

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