Composition Considerations

by Kevin Shank | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Now that you have a subject in your viewfinder, what makes a pleasing composition?

The answers will vary, and usually there is not a right/wrong way. First of all, what is being photographed? If it is going to move, shoot and crop later. With that said, many times the overall appeal of a photograph is not an accident. Rather, the photographer gave thought to a number of “little” things that tend to “make” or “break” the success of the photo.

Vertical or horizontal orientation is perhaps the first consideration. Without the specifics of every component within the photograph, does an oceanscape sound like a good candidate for a vertical composition? Does a tall wildflower with a butterfly on the blossom sound like a horizontal composition? Probably not, at arms length, though that could change depending on the unstated factors.

Many times an eye-level view carries the most impact or punch. Sometimes, though, a bird’s-eye view (looking down), or a worm’s eye view (looking up) is chosen. Tripod (standing) height, is often more boring than lying on the ground or shooting from an elevation.

Subject placement within the composition is another consideration. Usually a subject moving “into” a composition is more pleasing than one moving “out” of the composition. And occasionally symmetry has a place.

Study the examples below:

closeup of long-legged fly on leaf
Eye-to-eye with a long-legged fly, this composition utilizes symmetry. Photo © Kevin Shank.
Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, with blooming dogwoods and redbuds
This view of Seneca Rocks in West Virginia was taken by a drone hovering ten or fifteen feet above the ground. This perspective is a fresh alternative to a tripod-mounted camera sitting on the ground. Notice how several small bushes in the bottom right balance the large rock in the top left. Photo © Kevin Shank.
ornate planthopper on grass blade
I photographed this ornate planthopper while I lay in the grass using a macro lens. Photo © Kevin Shank.
white-tailed doe eating black gum leaves
Rule-of-thirds composition was used to compose this deer photo. Visualize two evenly spaced vertical lines, and two evenly spaced horizontal lines. Subjects on these lines or at line intersections are typically more pleasing than centered subjects.
Also note that this deer works well as a vertical composition, while Seneca Rocks (see above) works best as a horizontal. Photo © Kevin Shank.
syrphid fly on black-eyed susan
A bird’s-eye view looks down on the syrphid fly visiting the black-eyed Susan. Photo © Kevin Shank.
blooming pink rhododendron
Rule-of-thirds composition was used to show the rhododendron blossoms around the oak tree trunk. Photo © Kevin Shank.
little brown bat flying at night
This is a worm’s-eye view looking up at the bottom of a little brown bat. Photo © Kevin Shank.

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