Quick Tip: Composition for Beginners

Improving your composition can bring balance and personality to your photography, simultaneously enabling you to produce more appealing images. And as quick tips go, this 90-second video from Mango Street Lab is absolutely packed full of key compositional advice.

It’s important to remember that all of these rules can (and often should) be broken to create added interest and tension in your photos, drawing your viewer in to the image in a unique way. But you can’t break rules you don’t know.

The video kicks off with a compositional rule that most of you will know: the rule of thirds. This rule is applied by dividing your image with 4 equally-spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and placing important elements along or at the intersection of these lines—best understood with an illustration:

Using the same image, headroom and looking room are demonstrated. Headroom refers to the space above your subject’s head, and looking room refers to making sure the space between your subject’s face and the edge of the frame. Looking room/gaze can be used to help ‘balance’ a shot:

Next, the video touches on creative framing as a method for boxing in your subject, or adding some interest to an otherwise uninteresting scene. This is a very popular technique among popular Instagram photographers today:

Rachel and Daniel then go on to explain how leading lines are used to draw the viewer’s eyes towards a particular part of an image. Be sure that leading lines are working with, not agains, where you want the viewer to focus on.

Finally, the video ends with a short tip about perspective. Shooting from straight-on can result in a completely different feeling than shooting from below or from above your subject. Neither is “right” or “wrong,” but your choice should be deliberate.

Check out the video at the top for more about all these tips and a couple of others, and then have a look at Mango Street’s YouTube channel for more fast-paced quick tips just like this one.