Blog posts on composition

holly sunrise

I apologize, because this isn't much of a page on composition – it's simply a collection of links to some blog posts I've made on the subject. But they're illustrated and provide more information than a single web page could, anyway.

Composition is the most important element of good photography, in my opinion. Controlling the camera is great, and gives you lots of ability to change things the way you want, but it's nothing without being able to put together the image itself. However, composition is a large, detailed topic. There are no "rules" that apply to everything, and many compositional elements work only in certain situations. Some take greater precedent over others.

Above all, many of these are given emphasis by my own style (if I have one) and bias. You should have your own, and sometimes that means breaking the rules. The message here is, these are suggestions and ideas, with some reasoning behind them. What you do with them is up to you. When you get an image you particularly like, look it over carefully and try to determine what it is that works for you. This can give you a better understanding of what it is you're trying to accomplish.

The final link in this list is to an index page of all posts tagged with "Composition." While this will be simply repeats of what I have listed here, it stands a good chance of having some more since it updates automatically, unlike this page.

On Composition (May 16, 2010) – My first post on the subject, before I decided to turn it into a series. Some general notes on composition, visualizing, and making mistakes.

Just chock full of analogies (June 17, 2010) – Lightning photography tips, and some thoughts on patience.

Making light work (July 13, 2010) – Some explanation of light levels and their effect on images.

On composition, part two (August 9, 2010) – Appropriate settings in nature photography, and capturing an element of interest.

Heavy Sigh (August 29, 2010) – A little more about lightning photography.

Just because, part two (September 10, 2010) – Moon photography and exposure limitations.

On composition, part three: The crop (September 13, 2010) – Using cropping to frame and accentuate your images, and to give different emphasis.

On composition, part four (September 30, 2010) – Using empty space within your frame for balance and setting.

On composition, part five: It's the law! (October 5, 2010) – The infamous Rule of Thirds, and not why it works.

The color of magic (December 5, 2010) – Light color and quality, and using it to good advantage.

Compensation: It doesn't refer to those giant lenses (December 14, 2010) – Exposure compensation and why you should be doing it.

On composition, part six (December 18, 2010) – Managing the elements with the camera's position and vantage point.

Quiz time! (December 27, 2010) – Just seeing if you're paying attention.

waterfall and mist dropsOn composition, part seven: Depth (January 11, 2010) – Creating depth within your images to draw people in.

Observe! (March 14, 2011) – Finding subjects for your images in the first place.

On composition, part eight: Clean fill wanted (May 10, 2011) – Getting better exposures with fill lighting.

On composition, part nine: It's a drag (May 31, 2011) – Experimenting with long exposures.

High dynamic range (July 9, 2011) – Gimmick or legitimate technique?

On composition, part 10: Foreground elements (July 21, 2011) – What to do with your foreground.

Lend some character (December 6, 2011) – Being awkward, uncomfortable, and dirty still might add something to your efforts.

On composition, part 11: Nullhue (December 19, 2011) – You may know this as "black and white."

On composition, part 12: Mood and metaphor (February 6, 2012) – Promoting meaning and association from your subjects.

On composition, part 13: Purpose (June 7, 2012) – What do you want to do with the image?

Composition, part 5.1 (July 28, 2012) – Revisiting the Rule of Thirds and various misguided greeks.

On composition, part 14: Clichιs (October 5, 2012) – Whether to avoid them, or stop being hypersensitive.

On composition, part 15: The background (November 8, 2012) – As important as the subject, but often ignored.

On composition, part 16: Focal length (February 9, 2013) – More than zooming, and able to provide more options.

On composition, part 17: Point of focus (April 29, 2013) – Giving the viewer something to lock onto.

On composition, part 18: Illustration (June 23, 2013) – Using photos specifically to illustrate details, moods, or concepts.

Advice on advice (July 17, 2013) – Not applying solely to composition, but thoughts on handling photography advice.

Doing the fartsy thing (September 3, 2013) – I wouldn't dream of telling anyone how to do Art, so...

On composition, part 19: Distractions (October 7, 2013) – What you leave out is as important as what you include.

A matter of timing (October 29, 2013) – On how the conditions contribute to your image, and how to use them.

So how does one ‘compose’ an image? (November 15, 2013) – Trying to determine when and what compositional elements can apply for any given subject or approach.

On composition, part 20: Contrast (December 2, 2013) – Should've tackled this sooner, because it's an important facet of all photography.

On composition, part 21: Water (January 5, 2014) – Far too versatile an element to ignore.

All too brief (March 4, 2014) – Some thoughts and tricks while out shooting with a student.

On composition, part 14a: The lurking clichι (April 7, 2014) – Expanded thoughts about clichιs and originality.

On composition, part 22: Distortion (June 24, 2014) – Using lens traits to their advantage.

But of course (November 13, 2014) – Fall colors and water reflections.

On composition, part 23: Weather (January 10, 2015) – Making the most of bad weather.

A few more (March 7, 2015) – Just some quick pointers on positioning.

Why so many? (June 3, 2015) – Should you be shooting more than one image of any given subject?

On composition, part 24: Planning the shot (September 20, 2015) – Trying to bring a vision to fruition.

On the negative side 7 (December 19, 2015) – Revisiting position and contrast.

On composition, part 25: Critical sharpness (February 10, 2016) – Several methods to achieve the best sharpness you can.

Green greeting (April 9, 2016) – Using short depth-of-field and defocused objects for framing.

Not completely irredeemable (May 30, 2016) – Some notes on panning and tracking.

Monday color. And monochrome (June 27, 2016) – Another examination of doing black & white work in digital format.

More Monday monochrome (October 3, 2016) – And another.

Podcast: Composition (November 29, 2016) – Covering the basics and the idea itself. Should be at the top, but we're already chronological, so...

Two views (December 10, 2016) – A simple example of looking for opportunities and working the background.

Just because, part 23 (July 15, 2017) – Producing and using "orbs."

Daily Jim pic 6 (July 26, 2017) – Quick thoughts on experimenting.

Your opinion please (August 12, 2017) – Comparing the merits of two variations of the same scene.

On composition, part 26: Sunrise and sunset (August 20, 2017) – Tips on getting the best results at either end of the day.

Jim pic 47 (October 5, 2017) – Impressions and suggestions.

On composition, part 27: Seeing ghosts (December 1, 2017) – Noticing and using the things we often don't see.

Sunday slide 49 (December 3, 2017) – Using a broader frame for setting and mood.

On composition, part 28: The story (June 27, 2019) – A picture can be worth a thousand words, or more, if you do it right.

Macro photography, part 13: More than illustration (September 21, 2019) – Get some personality or art in there.

On composition, part 29: Captive animals (November 17, 2019) – Not as easy as many imagine.

On composition, part 30: Timing (December 11, 2020) – Not just of the shutter press, either...

On composition, part 31: Format (March 25, 2022) – Considering the end usage.

On composition, part 32: Post (June 10, 2023) – Using post-processing to improve your finished product.

Composition post index page – All posts tagged with "Composition," may be more current than this page.

Good luck!