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!

Photography Tips: A Complete Guide To Composition And Perspective | Learn how to take better pictures by setting up the shot with interesting composition.

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.

About Lynda Giddens

Lynda is a blogger of 12 years and a self-taught amateur photographer living in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two young sons. Be inspired to learn more about photography on her blog, Daily Window. Follow her on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook!
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Comments

  1. says

    I enjoyed todays challenge! I posted today’s photos on the Flickr page. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s assignment will be!

  2. says

    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!

  3. says

    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.

  4. says

    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.

    • says

      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?

  5. says

    Great post!! I’ma love this meme/thinger/photo challenge 😀

    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 😛

    • says

      oh yes, goose shit would be bad. maybe look before you get down too low. or maybe it was ok, did the picture turn out ok? : )

    • says

      I’m pretty sure I knelt in old microscopic Maltese poop the last time I got down low if it makes you feel any better. I have to start using a blanket or towel or something….

  6. says

    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!

      • says

        LOL, That was the intention, but I got so sidetracked by what I was looking at, that the tide-pool got the best of me, and it fell into the drink.
        My new camera has a strap ……

  7. says

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

  8. says

    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

  9. says

    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!

  10. says

    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!

  11. says

    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 😉

  12. says

    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!

  13. says

    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 :)

    • says

      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!

  14. says

    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!

      • says

        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!

    • says

      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. :)

  15. says

    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

    • says

      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.

    • says

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

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

  16. says

    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.

    • says

      Thanks Eva!

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

  17. says

    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

    • says

      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!

    • says

      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!

  18. says

    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 :)

    • says

      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!

  19. says

    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.

    • says

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

  20. says

    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.

  21. says

    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.

  22. says

    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!!!! 😀

  23. says

    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!

    • says

      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. :) :)

  24. says

    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!

  25. says

    Super tips! Love your idea about just moving yourself to find 20 different shots of the same subject – that is a great exercise.

    • says

      Thanks Angie! I was kind of worried people would think 20 shots would take forever, but it SO doesn’t. I’d be in (financial) trouble if I shot on film due to all the exposures I take.

  26. says

    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!

    • says

      The overflowing bookshelf sounds like an awesome looking up shot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it! :)

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