Finding your composition can be mind boggling. But I can tell you now, that a well thought through composition is what will eventually make you stand out from the rest. Composition is what creates interests and meaning. Composition makes you tell a story with the image you have captured. I know a lot of photographers who have the best camera on the market, the most expensive lens and almost every filter there is, but all this gear doesn't make you take a great photograph. I would take it even so far, that you could take better and more meaningful photos with a cell phone, than some of the photographers with thousands of dollars worth of gear do.
I, by any means, am not the best photographer there is. I for myself are still learning about photography everyday, but I really want to let you all know the things I think are most important in finding a composition that can make your photography stand out amongst others.
First I would like to start with some basic compositional rules, and later on I will mention some of the rules which are rarely talked about. All the rules will be discussed with landscape photography, but most of these also work on other photography styles such as portrait, architecture etc.
1) RULE OF THIRDS
Notice how the church and the horizon are both aligned within the rule of thirds.
The Rule of thirds is the most basic rule there is. It is here for you to frame up along the lines and fill the frame. Using this rule will create a balanced image. Balanced means that neither of the right or left, nor the upper or lower part of the image will be filled with too much meaning making the viewer forget about the other parts of the image. You can set the lines in your camera but also on your smartphone to help you frame up your next photos
2) LEADING LINES
In my opinion a nice leading line is one of the most essential rule there is in landscape photography. Using rivers, roads, mountains and valleys can create a perfect line towards the main part of the image (in some case the leading line is the main part of the image). Leading lines will make the viewer follow along most of the image. They can really make the image interesting.
Symmetry has always played a huge factor in my photography. I love it when everything is balanced. Symmetry is also very eye-catching.
Symmetry of the pier, also a leading line in this case!
Reflections can create the symmetric effect
4) PATTERNS AND TEXTURES
Patterns and textures are not only very pleasing for the eye, they will also fix the viewers to the image. Humans are know to have certain need of figuring out whats happening once they see things (patterns, textures but also objects) twice or even more often.
Very minimalistic photograph. Still very pleasing and interesting to look at.
Minimalism can really turn a quite boring frame into an interesting and captivating photograph. I have found minimalism to get really really good responses from the viewers. I will definitely try to incorporate this technique a lot more into my photography.
6) FOREGROUND INTEREST
Foreground interest can be vital to tell a story. This technique works best with wide angle photography. Foregrounds also incorporate a sense of depth into your photography.
A leaf as a point of interest in the foreground
7) CHANGE THE ANGLE
I love to change the angle. Get down as low as possible or as high as possible. Especially since drones have entered the world of photography this technique has gained a whole lot more attention.
High up in the air
Down very low (sometimes you just got to get wet for the shot)
8) CREATE CONTRAST
You instantly know where to look at.
You are probably thinking why I listed contrast here, but contrast can really isolate objects and make them stand out. With contrast you can clearly define your point of interest and support the story you are telling.
The point with the most contrast is the top of the glacier. You will always look at that area first.
9) CONTENT AWARENESS / CROPPING / CLONING
Be mindful about your composition. Especially in landscape photography it is important to leave out things which might be distracting to the viewer. In case you can't remove the distracting object on scene by zooming or moving the camera you can also crop or clone in post-processing.
I found the tree in the background to be distracting my minimalistic composition....
... so I removed it.
Depth can really create a cool composition. Two forms of depth can be integrated into your composition. A shallow depth of field, as seen in the picture with the ice block in the foreground or a deep depth, where everything is sharp and in focus (picture with the crack).
Deep depth of Field
Shallow depth of Field
11) COMBINE MULTIPLE TECHNIQUES.
Of course you can combine multiple techniques, but beware that you don't overload your image with content and meaning and confuse the viewer.
EXAMPLE: Leading line and Contrast
The contrast between the clouds, sky and mountain and the road will ultimately lead you towards the fjord.
Final thoughts: Obviously all these techniques aren't for every location you shoot. Sometimes they work really well and in some scenes they just don't. If you think a composition looks way better than what the rules stated, you might as well just shoot it like that. Always consider all your options! Taking a risk and experimenting can sometimes really be worthwhile.
Was this helpful to you? Are you still confused? Leave me a comment down below!