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3 Beginner Composition Mistakes to Watch Out for in Portraits


If you’re just starting out in portrait photography, here’s a helpful 4-minute video by photographer Sheldon Evans that looks at 3 big composition mistakes that beginners often make in the genre.

Here’s a quick rundown of what Evans discusses:

#1. Not performing a background check

Make sure to look at the background behind your subject. Structures in your background that cause lines to go “through” your subject and intersect them can be distracting.

If you can’t blur them out with a shallow depth of field, or reposition the setup, then try to position them to become part of the composition in a positive way.

#2. Give enough breathing room

If your subject is too close to the edge of the frame and is looking “out” of the image, it can feel quite claustrophobic.

Similarly, too much space around the subject can make things feel far too empty. Try and use the rule of thirds and crop your photo to fix this.

#3. Don’t amputate your subject

Don’t chop off limbs and other bodily protrusions without thinking about it carefully. There are a number of “safe zones” for cropping, such as mid-abdomen or between joins in limbs. Otherwise, the image can look weird and disjointed.

When shooting headshots, include the shoulders otherwise they’ll “end up looking like a floating head.”

Watch the full video above to see examples of each of these mistakes so that you can avoid them in your own photography.

(via Sheldon Evans via ISO 1200)