Composition and Perspective Photo Tips

I’ve seen photographs taken with great cameras. They have fabulous colors, perfect exposure and maybe even amazing lighting. But they look ordinary. Why? They lack two big elements: composition and perspective.

These are two of the easiest photo tips you can implement using only your creativity and your eyes. No fancy cameras or technical know-how required!

Photo Composition and Perspective

To compose {or frame} your shot, you need to look through your viewfinder to see what your camera sees. Then you deliberately place your subject somewhere in the shot. It takes more thought than snapping the picture. While there are many composition rules (all of which may be broken), there is one rule that doesn’t take a huge amount of thought or planning.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds
Photo Credit: Digital Photography School.

If you’re into art, you may have heard of The Rule of Thirds. Here is how it works: cut the canvas into thirds diagonally and horizontally. The intersecting sections are the “sweet spots” and ideally your subject will fall in or near one of the four intersections. Your goal is to place your subject in one of the red intersections.

rule of thirds

I took this photo of my kids playing in the backyard with my first generation iPhone (aka not the best camera known to man). My older son was balancing himself on the slide and I carefully lined up my shot to try to get him in the upper left-hand “sweet spot”.

(The rest of the photo was to be empty space, but my younger son ran into the frame as I was taking the picture. It was a happy accident because it gave the shot a counterpoint and balanced it out a bit.)

No doubt, even without the happy accident, this shot is more interesting than if I’d placed him squarely in the center of the photo. While a centered subject can make an interesting photo, it’s usually best to avoid the straight-on centered snapshots.

Perspective

If you want your photographs to go beyond just a snapshot, make them tell a story. How can you tell a story? By assuming a different character. In order to do that with your photography, you need to change your perspective.

Here are a few tips and examples of ways you can change your everyday perspective of the subject.

Tip 1: Get Down Low
If you’re taking pictures of flowers, pets, children or anything else that is low to the ground, get low to the ground. The world looks different when you’re sitting, kneeling or on your belly.

Tip 2: Look Up
If you’re photographing something tall, instead of standing back and trying to get it all in the shot, why not get close and look up?

Tip 3: From the Side
This is one of my favorite techniques, especially when repetition is involved. Instead of a head-on snapshot, position yourself to the side of the subject, get close in and shoot.

Tip 4: Look Down
The opposite of looking up at something? Look straight down. This is an excellent way to tell the story from your point of view. Alternatively, try grabbing a chair or ladder and telling the story from a bird’s eye view.

Tip 5: Think, Then Click
Use your creativity to construct your photograph. Don’t just click away. If you have the time, take a moment to artistically frame your subject. Figure out what perspective would be best. Only then, click. Click again and again and test out different compositions and perspectives.

Practice by photographing every day objects from a new and unique perspective. The more you practice, the quicker you’ll be able to make these decisions when you only have a few seconds to get it right.

Photography Challenge

Photograph a subject using a variety of compositions and perspectives. (Don’t move it. Move yourself.) Take at least 20 photos, more is fine. This may sound like a lot, but once you start framing and clicking you’ll see it isn’t. You should be able to complete this challenge within 5-30 minutes.

Comments

  1. Wow, great photos!! Depth of field is wonderful!

  2. Mmm.. very interesting! =D Thanks for the tips!

    http://www.theblogforbrides.com
    http://www.journeyofawoman.wordpress.com
    vivi b. recently posted..40 Days of Love

  3. I’m not very good at taking or being in pictures. This definitely helped! Posting up my pics tonight!
    Trianna recently posted..Weight Watchers Slacker

  4. I enjoyed todays challenge! I posted today’s photos on the Flickr page. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s assignment will be!
    Moni recently posted..Funky Flashback Friday – April 1- 2011

  5. I can’t wait to do this! I’m a bit behind though, it’s already 10 pm here in England and bedtime. However, I know exactly what I want to take pictures of and I’ll get them in the a.m. with the rising sun! Love this!
    Tonya recently posted..Operation Spring Cleaning

  6. Here is my Challenge Day 1! I am quite pleased so far, though just seeing these tells me I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but am excited to do so!
    Alicia (Tails of an Apronista) recently posted..SITS Photo Challenge Day 1 – composition- perspective

  7. Awesome tips!! :-) I love playing with different angles for the same shots…
    Kelly recently posted..Boredom Creates Fun

  8. I echo the great perspective shots comments. I do think about getting close, getting low, going from the side, but I never think about looking up. I am not officially participating in this because we’re going on vacation Saturday, but I’m going to soak up as much as I can learn. Thanks for the tutorial.

  9. The challenge for me here will be taking more than 20 pictures! I am not sure why I want to take 2 or 3 and call it good, even though the photographers I know can take hundreds of pictures to get a good one. Thanks for the challenge! I am ready to give it a try.
    Sarah recently posted..Bible in 90 Days- Finished

    • I have the opposite problem, I take way too many pics, almost an overwhelming number. So how about you try and take more and I’ll try and take less and see where we end up?
      rachel recently posted..i heart vacation

  10. Great post!! I’ma love this meme/thinger/photo challenge :D

    As for the get down low, last time I did that, I laid in a pile of goose shit :( Need to watch more carefully when I do stuff I guess :P

  11. My camera hates it when I go for perspective. That’s how I lost it in the ocean .. twice.
    But I like this post, because I always need to work on my camera skills!
    le chef recently posted..Quick &amp Easy Hummus

  12. I am so glad wea re starting with this, its my favorite things to do! I love the rule of thirds and creative shots.
    Juliana recently posted..Healthy Burger

  13. can’t wait to give the challenge a try!
    stephany recently posted..home sweet home

  14. Cool post, Lynda. I’m going to write my post today (gonna squeeze it in). Might be celebrity related :) Stay tuned!
    Cloutwomen recently posted..Susan Sarandon to be Honored at the 14th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival

  15. I try my hand at photography once in a while, and those are some useful tips. Thanks for sharing.
    Myne Whitman recently posted..C is for Congrats to the Winners!

  16. I am so excited to try this out. I alreay know what I’m going to practice on. So excited I decided to join tgis.

    Kari

  17. These tips are great! I am really excited to get out my camera. I have never thought to do a picture looking up or down before, what a wonderful way to capture my little munchkin! Can’t wait to get started!
    Alicia (Tails of an Apronista) recently posted..Sweetest Honey

  18. Fun and helpful.
    Shell recently posted..On Going to the Big D and I do mean Dallas

  19. I love all of her tips. Great advise.
    Krysta MacGray recently posted..Strawberry Basil Sorbet

  20. The sideways perspective really helped capture a shot of snow stacked against a window. Thanks for the tip and for motivating me to follow up on plans to improve my travel photography skills!
    Sandra Foyt recently posted..Kicking Up the Travel Shots!

  21. Terrific post! Lately I’ve been attempting to make my photos look more interesting by incorporating the rule of thirds – it really does make a huge difference in how your photo turns out.

    Thanks for the great tips Lynda!

    Peace,
    Michelle ;)
    Michelle recently posted..DIY Green Gardening Projects for Spring

  22. Great tips! I always do this without even knowing the “technical terms.” I recently purchased my first DSLR and when I’ve been reading photography tips and tutorials, I think “Oh, that’s what that’s called!” Haha. Great tips, though! I like the rule of thirds!
    Meg O. recently posted..My First Blogger Meetup!

  23. this is something I’ve really tried to concentrate on lately and people really respond to a fun composition. Everyone has seen photos of your kids, but shoot them a new/different way and they love it.

    great article :)

    • Totally agree. I look back on some of my older photos where the exposure sucked or I edited it way too much, but it got a positive response specifically because of the composition or perspective. It can save a shot!

  24. Great article and tips! I have been practicing with perspective, but the sweet spots was something new I learned. I always thought you had to try and center the object in the middle. Can’t wait to try this!
    beenomom recently posted..Welcome New Friends!

    • Awesome! There’s an article linked above (here it is) with even more composition tips.

      I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      • that article is fantastic, there is so much that you really just dont think about when snapping a shot. The picture of the sheep comes to mind, when I would have normally focused just on the sheep, perhaps angled down at them or even at their level to get as many as possible. When adding in the depth of the mountainside, they become so much more than just a flock of sheep! Thanks for adding this one!
        Alicia (Tails of an Apronista) recently posted..Sweetest Honey

  25. Amen, Sitstah! I love looking for interesting perspectives, and I truly believe that good composition can turn an otherwise plain photo into a favorite shot.
    Lolli @ Better in Bulk recently posted..Ultimate Blog Party 2011

    • Thanks Lolli!

      When people tell me, “I wish I took better pictures!” usually their photos look just fine, but they completely lack any composition or a unique perspective so I thought this would be a good place to start. I think many people have a hard time looking at photography and photographing their kids as ART, but it totally is. :)

  26. Very cool challenge. I’ll have to see if I can come up with something!

  27. Lynda,
    I’m happy you’re here today! :) Great tips and beautiful pics as always!
    BLOGitse recently posted..two weeks to go…

  28. I take a lot of dog pictures and the get down low rule really applies. I seldom think to take a picture from the side so this will be fun to try. Cropping and luck is my life since my pups seldom cooperate when it comes to composition.

    Thanks for the ideas,
    Kb
    Katybeth recently posted..Today is Tweed Day! Ice Cream Sundae!

    • Yeah, those moving subjects are so tricky! With my kids and pets, I do a lot of composition in post-processing through cropping. In that case, if you can leave a little extra space (back up, zoom out), it makes it easier to pick out a good composition via cropping.

  29. Twitter link
    Tanya recently posted..Spring Photos of Estella

  30. I just took some spring photos of my youngest daughter. I think they look great!
    Tanya recently posted..Spring Photos of Estella

    • They look AMAZING! Great props too! What a cutie pie.

      I’m in awe they were taken with a camera phone. :)

  31. This was a great post. I appreciate the photography tips.

    Happy Monday, SITStahs! Hope everyone has a great week.
    Stop by my blog and read about the man who plays with dolls.

    • Thanks Eva!

      That was an interesting blog post! I watched a news segment on life-sized doll collectors a while back. Interesting folk!

  32. Love these shots! I have always loved the pattern shot from the side, like the knobs you have above. I have a great pic (not by me) that I used in one of my last posts (link below) and I LOVE it, it gives some depth to the picture! Thanks for sharing!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life recently posted..Setting boundaries when working at home

    • Oh, I do like that shot in your blog post! I’m a sucker for repetition like that – we’re going to cover Repetition next week!

  33. I love it whe nyou have photography tips!
    Tess @ Pro-tography 101 recently posted..Shooting in Manual is Easier Than You Think

    • Thanks Tess! I’m new to your blog. I was just introduced through it by my friend Kimberly who guest posted today! Can’t wait to check out more!

  34. Well, this one had be laying on the floor – that is out of my comfort zone to be sure!
    Nessa recently posted..Seeds

  35. Excellent tips! One of my favorite photos that I’ve ever taken was laying down under a tree. It’s not a photo I ever would have thought to have taken except I was just resting and when I looked up it was so pretty. A whole different perspective :)
    Mrs. Mootz recently posted..Cake Decorating &amp Painting Not At the Same Time

    • Happy little accidents are so cool, especially if it’s also a breakthrough! Do you have that picture online anywhere? I’d love to see it. “looking up trees” is one of my favorite types of photographs. I just love looking at them!

  36. I’m going to love these photography hints…
    Rebecca Jo recently posted..Project 365 2011- Week 14

  37. More great tips, keep them coming. :)))
    Marie Cole recently posted..Kitchen is Soooo DONE

  38. I am excited! I am going to try this out later this afternoon! I just have to figure out what I am going to take pictures of.
    Tara recently posted..Winter Wrap-up

    • Sometimes finding a subject is the hardest part of photography. Can’t wait to see what you come up with Tara!

  39. Great tips! I just went out and took some shots of this really old tree in my yard that I love. And the sky had the perfect backdrop, we are expecting a huge storm. Plus it was raining a little bit, it was fun getting some great shots of that old tree.
    Heather recently posted..Puzzle Piece Necklace Giveaway!

  40. I’ve got a great photo to share. I took it over the winter of one of our trees and made it black and white. It came out so unusual and interesting.

  41. Oh Boy. I read this at the office. Great. My work productivity is going down the TUBES, but my Photo productivity is going WAAYYYY Up! Off to photograph bits and pieces of my office with a New Perspective!!!! :D
    Stephanie Snyder recently posted..Thirty before 30 My list

  42. Worked on my shots already this morning, anyone else noticed its hard to compose a shot when your subject is a living being and you’re trying to have to get their attention in order to get that “perfect shot”. My dog and my baby are not wanting to cooperate this morning so I have a lot of perspective shots of them not paying any attention to me!
    Jenna recently posted..Ethnic Brilliance

    • I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to take some direction. (They’re 3.5 and 21 months). I crop in post-processing more than I’d care to admit! It’s more important for me to get them being cute than to make sure my frame is lined up perfectly.

      But yes… photographing kids and pets are HARD!!! I’d suggest a stationary subject to practice on too. It’ll be less frustrating. :) :)
      Lynda recently posted..Friday Finds- Urban Photography

  43. Thank you! Since I do most of my own art for my blog and my website, it’s always great to get more knowledge on this kind of stuff. Really, this is great!
    luci gabel recently posted..Skinny Comfort Food

  44. Just what I need! Thanks! I’ll be working on this later today. I couldn’t wait to wake up this morning to find out what the challenge was going to be.
    Greener Cleaning Mom recently posted..How I Clean My Oven Without Toxic Chemicals

  45. Can’t wait to try this out this afternoon!
    Elizabeth recently posted..Conversations with Charlie

  46. Super tips! Love your idea about just moving yourself to find 20 different shots of the same subject – that is a great exercise.
    Angie recently posted..Dream Big or Kiss Your Ash … Say What

  47. I totally agree! Any photo with an usual perspective, whether it’s shot low or from above, always catches my eye. Great tips!
    Lynn from For Love or Funny recently posted..I sunbathe in my parka

  48. These tips are spot on! And I like this -”Don’t move it. Move yourself.”
    Julie recently posted..12 Rigtige Råd til dig der vil søge et Vikarjob

  49. Great tips! I’ve tried getting pet shots from a low angle; they come out beautifully! Going to try the looking up shot to get a picture of my overflowing bookshelf…I think that will give me just the effect I’m trying for!
    Jinny recently posted..Spiritual Sunday 34- Soul Journey with Denise Linn

  50. Great! I love those different perspective shots.
    -CK

Trackbacks

  1. [...] it comes to the staples of photography, every photo has composition and perspective. And let’s not forget the importance of light and [...]

  2. [...] this first SITS Photography Challenge, the authors tackle Composition and Perspective Photo Tips. I had already learned about the rule of thirds at the Philadelphia Bloggy Boot Camp, but in this [...]

  3. [...] I’m going to do into too much detail and recall everything that is said. If you’d like to read the post you can here. [...]

  4. [...] Yesterday’s challenge was regarding composition and perspective, and mixing it up (as Amy put it). Today you were supposed to blog the photos from yesterday, or work on your editing using the awesome tips they give you on the site. [...]

  5. [...] is an awesome two week photo project going on over on the SITS website. I was going to put together a flickr page and post the photos there, but when it comes down to it, [...]

  6. [...] article is all about Composition and Perspective, giving you some easy tips to take your photos to the next level right away. If you’re [...]

  7. [...] – In related news, don’t forget that today is DAY 1 on the SPRING Into Action Photo Challenge that I’m helping out with on SITS! You can use any camera {even your phone} to learn how to [...]

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