documentary photography

7 Compositional Techniques that will Transform your Photography Today!

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When I first started out in photography, I had no knowledge of any compositional techniques. I was completely focused on learning my camera, shooting in manual mode and grabbing focus ( which are all good and necessary things of course) So it wasn’t a surprise that my images lacked interest and creativity. I was pretty disappointed with my images as they looked more like snapshots than powerful storytelling photographs. My dissatisfaction grew until I realized I needed to understand some basic compositional rules . When I started utilizing these 7 techniques, it transformed my photography. There are more techniques than this, but this is a basic starting point. Here they are in no particular order.

  1. Rule of Thirds

  2. Leading Lines

  3. Framing

  4. Symmetry

  5. Leading Room

  6. Depth

  7. Size of Subject

    Utilizing one or more of these techniques will make your imagery stronger because they are ways of guiding the viewers eye towards the most important elements of your work- sometimes in a very specific order. Composition can transform even the dullest of objects or surroundings.

Let’s take a look at each technique in more detail.

  1. Rule of Thirds

    A guide line that proposes that an image sill has more energy and interest by dividing it into 9 equal parts by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines, and placing your subject along those lines… for example: The image of the plant below. Notice how the leaves( the subject of the picture) are on the right side? If you divided this image into the previously discussed grid, you would see that the subject is placed along these lines. The same idea applies to the image of my daughter potty training above.

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2. Leading Lines

This refers to a technique where the viewers attention is drawn to the lines that are leading to your subject….. for example, as you can see below, my son and daughter are looking out at something on the other side of the fence. Notice how the shadow of the fence is acting as a leading line, leading your eye right to them.

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3.Framing

This is a way to use elements within your image to fame the subject you are creating a frame within a frame . Some examples are doorways, windows curtains branches fences etc… The image above, my boys are being framed by the ceiling and one of my boys is also being framed by the window that he is looking out of. Below, my daughters sitting under one of my accent tables and the legs and top are framing them.

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4.Symmetry

This is referring to an imaginary line splits and image in half and both sides are mirror images of each other. In this case you can put a subject in the center of the frame. The image below of my daughter looking straight into the camera is the only one I could find as an example of symmetry. Technically it’s not symmetrical straight out of camera, but I darkened the background in post processing and she is now centered and the image appears the same on both sides.

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5.Leading Room

The space in front and in the direction of moving or stationary subjects….. Below my daughter is attempting to blow a dandelion and it’s important that there is space in front of her so that your eye can envision the direction the dandelion seeds will go. As you can see she had a hard time getting the seeds to disperse, but you can still imagine this happening because of the leading room.

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6.Depth

Basically giving a 2 dimensional image the feel of 3 dimensions. This is more engaging to the viewer and helps them to explore the scene rather than just observe. The image below of my daughter asleep on the dining room chair has a feeling of 3 dimentionality because of the layering. Notice how the refrigerator is closer to the camera and serving as a type of leading line towards the chair? The chair is the next closest object to the camera and then next up is my daughter. Notice how this all leads your eye from front to back giving the image more depth?

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7.Size

Using the relationship between two objects to clue viewers in on how big, or small your subject is. Below you can see how small my daughter is in relation to the shed and the trees surrounding her.

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So there you have it! 7 compositional techniques that will improve your photography. There’s no need to try and use all of these techniques at once ( Though you will find that some will naturally overlap) Focus on one technique at a time until you’ve mastered it. Once you feel you’ve gotten the hang of each technique, try adding multiple techniques together in one image. Which technique do you like the most? Let me know in the comments below!

Now stick around and head over to Child Photographer Tampa, Dana DiSalvo’s Blog and check out her most recent portrait session. So beautiful and inspiring, don’t miss it!

Interested in my FREE PDF on Lowlight Photography? Go ahead and grab yours below!

Tips on Preparing for Your Maternity Photo Session

Tips on Preparing for Your Maternity Photo Session

Bringing a baby into the world is a wonderful life event that should be captured. It’s a time you are going to want to remember and share with your little one once they are a bit older. If you are thinking about or have recently booked a maternity photo session then the below tips should come in handy as your prepare for your session.

Creating Negative Space in Your Home: 6 Simple Tips for the Messy Home

Creating Negative Space in Your Home: 6 Simple Tips for the Messy Home

When I first started on my photography journey I quickly became obsessed with learning compositional techniques. (Thank you Clickin Moms!!) One of my favorite techniques that I learned was how to utilize Negative Space. 


Why Your Photographer Loves What They Do

Why Your Photographer Loves What They Do

If you have ever wondered what spurs on a photographer’s passion, you are about to find out. Below are just some of the many reasons your photographer wouldn’t change their job for anything in the world.

Photographers Who Inspire: Getting to Know Shay Cathleen

Photographers Who Inspire: Getting to Know Shay Cathleen

What got you started in photography? 

When I was younger I always had the good old disposable cameras ready to go in my bag (brought them to school). Then after high school i decided to begin my journey of working abroad. This is when my parent bought me my first camera…..

Photographers Who Inspire: Getting to Know Bri Viglianco

Photographers Who Inspire: Getting to Know Bri Viglianco

What got you started in photography? 

My son is what got me started. My husband and I struggle with infertility and when it settled in that our son is probably the only child we will get I decided I needed to do a better job at documenting his childhood. Not just for him.. but for myself as well. 

Surviving a Family Photoshoot: How to make your next family photo session a stress free one.

 

 

Family photos are truly timeless and such a great keepsake for future generations. Getting the family together to take those perfect portraits can turn into chaos if not approached correctly. There is usually a lot more to consider when it comes to a family photoshoot since there are members of all ages, which means that there is some extra coordination involved.

Below are some family photoshoot ideas and tips to keep you and your loved ones calm and smiling the whole way through.

1.  Timing is everything. 

If you have younger children involved in the shoot, try and arrange the photoshoot at a time when they would be well rested. A rested child makes for happy photos. On that note, make sure that all family members have gotten enough sleep the night before as this helps with the fun and relaxation aspects of the session.

2. Dos and don’ts of bribery. 

Get your family excited about the photoshoot instead of offering a reward in return for their cooperation. This tends to lead to forced smiles and an irritated bunch of people. If you do have small children coming along it’s not a bad idea to give the photographer some bribery options in the form of toys or small food items to make those difficult moments a little easier

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3. Relinquish control. 

As much as you’ll want to direct your children on where to stand and how to pose, it’s best to leave that to the photographer as they know what works best. Not having this pressure will also make you feel more relaxed.

4. It’s not just about the posing. 

The best photos happen when you’re having fun so joke and play with your children, hold your partner’s hand and just let the moments happen.

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5. Plan ahead. 

Discuss all of your requirements with your photographer beforehand so that the family photo session can just flow. Let your photographer know if you want specific pictures taken.

6. Keep those sugar levels up.

 If everyone is well fed, the photoshoot will also run a lot smoother. It’s also not a bad idea to take a few snacks and some water along for those who might need it

 

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Enjoy capturing your memories.

Photographers Who Inspire: Getting to Know Michelle Lourenco

It's been a couple of months since I last posted and I have been dying to get back to it! I have lots to share. It's been a busy few weeks with moving onto our new land and living in a camper while we prepare to build again. 

I am so excited to start up this series again and share with you one of my all time favorites, Michelle Lourenco. Enjoy getting to know this amazing artist!

 

What got you started in photography

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My husband bought me an entry level dslr several years ago, but I never really learned how to use it. It wasn't until I had my sons that I really wanted to learn how to document their childhood through photography. Cell phone pictures just weren't good enough anymore!

 

What three words describe your photographic style?

Moody, light inspired (sorry that two words), and raw.

 

What’s your favorite compositional technique? 

I'd probably say minimalism and simplicity. I like clean, clutter free images the best. 

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Tell me a bit about your biz! Are you only personal work, or a mix of personal and client?

I mostly do personal work, but I'll also photograph families, seniors, couples, and children as the need arises. I don't really market myself, I let people come to me. I have this fear of over doing it and then not really enjoying photography anymore. It's become such a passion and form of therapy for me.. I never want it to be a source of stress.

 

How would you describe your ultimate dream shoot or personal project? 

One where my boys would do everything I asked them to! Haha. Photographing kids is definitely my favorite. I've always wanted to get a diverse group of children today and photograph them in some gorgeous light just playing and enjoying each other without the stereotypes of the world. I just think it would be beautiful. Kids are so pure of heart.. I love watching them interact with one another. Also, I'd love to do a patriotic shoot! I'd love to get a service member from each branch of the military in their dress uniform and photograph them together symbolically showing a united front. 

 

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 What’s one of the most interesting experiences you’ve ever had in a session or personal project? 

Hmm.. I can't say that I've had anything crazy happen, but I've definitely learned to roll with the punches. Kids don't always act how you want them to, clients show up with extra family members for their session, dads can be stiff and grumpy.. I find that the more I let go of the image I had imagined in my head, I can capture the real raw moment and that's where it's at. 

 

What’s your favourite image you’ve ever taken (please share, and tell me the story behind the image)?

My favorite image isn't exactly the most spectacular image, but it is the first image that I felt really proud of. For the first time since I had seriously started learning photography, I felt like I was going to be able to capture my family how I had always dreamed of. I've never been looking for perfection, just progress and real moments. (I'll attach the image below).

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to get started in photography?

Learn your camera and learn the basics. Don't settle for shooting in auto.. It'll never get you the photos you desire. Most importantly, never give up or compare. Photography is your own artistic expression so what is beautiful to you may not be beautiful to someone else and that's okay. Comparison will kill your progress quicker than anything else. Just work towards being a better photographer than you were yesterday; it'll all fall into place that way. 

 

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?

You know, I'm really not sure! I have a bachelors degree in psychology and social and criminal justice, but I never worked in those fields. Photography has been the first career path that I've found such great passion in. I'm mostly a mom, but I'm hopeful that one day I can find a good balance and have a thriving business as a photographer.

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Favorite Quote?

"Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart." -Kahlil Gibran

 

LR or PS?

Definitely lightroom. I use photoshop very minimally... it's rather overwhelming still.

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Any favorite presets?

I started out using tribe red leaf and I'll still go back to them sometimes, but lately I've mostly been using Mastin Labs Porta Pushed presets with quite a few tweeks.

 

Photographer/photographers who has influenced you the most?

Our first family photographer back in San Diego inspired me a lot! Her name is Amber Craig of Amber Craig Photography. I found myself so awestruck by her images and knew I wanted to have a similar style. I'll still message her with questions or just to chat about photography. In general though, I'm really inspired by photographers who capture real moments.. not so much staged with carefully picked out outfits. Also, photographers who have a dark and moody style.. that's my favorite! You and Cynthia Dawson are two of my favorites for sure!

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List any articles you have written, contests you've won etc... brag about your self!! can I get the links?

 

Eeek.. I don't really have a lot of brag worthy awards. I did enter shoot and share this year with one image placing as a finalist (364th out of 35,570 photos). I also had 10 photos in the top 10%, 10 in the top 20%, and 6 in the top 30%. The year before I only had one image in the top 10% and one in the top 20%. 

And there you have it!! Isn't she fabulous? Please go and check her out on Instagram and give her a follow HERE!