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Composing Your Shot!

Posted by on June 3, 2012

Sometimes I get asked the questions of “how do you compose a shot?”  The truth is, my eyes just see the shot, and I work with what I see.

But, overtime, by watching other photographers I have learned a few other ways to make a shot look interesting.. and I’d like to share those ideas with you.

1) Look Up

Say you go to your park on a daily basis and you see the same scenery, but ask yourself, how many times have you looked up?  It changes the perspective completely.  This technique works great, especially if you’re walking on a street, just looking up can create different angles and perspectives for you.

2) Get up close and personal

Having a close shot of a detail of a picture can make for some awesome footage.  How many times have you seen a picture, and it turns out it was just one item, but because of how it was composed, it worked.

3) Whatever you’re focusing on in your shot, move that detail to the left or the right.

By doing this your eyes will avert to that detail in your shot.  Also, depending on where you place your focus will make or break the shot entirely.

4) Pay Attention to the background in your photograph

How many times have you taken a photo, and when you get it back you’re disappointed because there’s a garbage can in the background, or someone was walking by, or you see something you missed entirely.

Well, start thinking about your shot, and look for those background items before taking your shot.  Today, for example, I was at the park taking photos with some friends, and lo and behold, I noticed garbage cans in the background, or the sun, or someone walking by. I’d wait a little bit, or move myself a little to the left to take those background items out of the shot.  It made the shot work, whereas, if I left those items in, it’d be a different picture completely.

To me, the shot above would have worked a lot better if the car wasn’t driving by at that exact moment, but I didn’t screen my shot first, and this is what I came up with.  So, take that minute to scour your background.

5) Utilize Foreground

You know where I like to put this to use?  In sunsets.  Those trees, those branches around you, they help make a boring shot turn into something great.   So, look around you, what object would make for interesting detail, find a way to utilize it.

6) Declutter your Shot

Utilizing foreground can be a good thing, but if you utilize too much of it, it could make a shot not look so good.  So, try to keep things simple when composing your shots, and not have too much going on in your shot.

Too much was just happening in the shot above.. it took away from what was happening: the sunset.  😉  Even I make mistakes! lol

Anyways, hope you can put some of these tips to use.  Let me know how you did, and make sure to post some of your pictures for me on Minnesota Girl in LA’s facebook page!





79 Responses to Composing Your Shot!

  1. Romina

    I have always loved taking pictures. I believe it is a great way to document life. Since I started blogging, I now have to make more effort at how I document things and am slowly becoming a better photographer. At least now, I not only take the subject into consideration, but the lighting, the background, etc. There’s so much to learn. As always, wonderful post. I love your pictures; great examples.

    • Jamie

      Thinking about your shots will bring better results… =) but once you are familiar it becomes easier, definitely =)

  2. Holly

    I remember when I was younger I took a picture that could have been awesome, of my huge Rottweiler dog sleeping in my bed, but there was a dirty old sock in the shot too and my grandmother made this huge deal about that one sock that “ruined what could have been such a great picture, HOLLY.” And so now I always remember to look into the foreground and make sure there’s not something I don’t want there before taking the picture.

    • Jamie

      It’s funny how one memory can affect the way you do things.. I have a few stories like that!

  3. Dale Anne Potter

    GOOD reminders & tips Jamie! THANK YOU!

  4. Debra

    Thanks for these great tips.

  5. Olga Hermans

    Great tips Jamie…now to implement them. They help me on my next trip through the Rocky Mountain in a few weeks; thanks!!

    • Jamie

      Oooh, the Rocky Mountains are truly beautiful =) I hope you share some of your pictures!

  6. Alexis Grace

    Great reminders— these are all tips I can agree with!

  7. Moira Hutchison

    Excellent tips! Thanks for the inspiration ;).

  8. Jennifer

    Thanks Jaime, these are great suggestions. I’m always jealous of people who have an eye for a good photo. I love to take pictures, but am not inherently good at it. I’ll be using some of your tips to try to change that . .

    • Jamie

      just keep pushing yourself to try new things and it will come =)

  9. Lisa Birnesser

    I love these tips, Jamie. I was taking pictures this past weekend and was wondering how I could change up my approach. I am going to use this ideas this weekend for sure! Love your work!

  10. Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey

    Great tips, Jamie! I’ve been really enjoying taking food pictures lately. I play with it and when I have time and patience the results are amazing. I am not as good with people yet,lol….working on it :)

    • Jamie

      I discovered the fun of food photography a few weeks ago when I was at a new restaurant. I want to play around with more of that =) lots of fun!

  11. Mary

    I know your friends!!!;-) Wish I had a shot of you laying down in order to get the airplane at the park!

    • Jamie

      I will get the pictures to you guys tomorrow =) Had zero time today!

  12. Alex @ Before The Baby Wakes

    Great tips! I’m going to keep these in mind as I’m doing my daily Instagram stuff :)

    • Jamie

      and I’m loving your instagram shots when I catch them!

  13. Kay Aubrey-Chimene

    I can really relate to the “background” comment. I helped a friend of mine who is a prof. photographer for horse events at a major Combined Driving event one year. Of course the set her up where her photos would have the port-o-johns in the background! We had to do some creative rearranging to keep those blue huts out of the shots – LOL

    • Jamie

      Oh, yes… When I was on my trip last week I really wanted to capture a shot, but just couldn’t take it because of the Port o Johns right in front!

  14. Sally K Witt, Social Media and Ministry

    Wonderful tips, so glad I saw this post today!

  15. Dorien Morin-van Dam

    Great tips, even for a mommy amateur. I love the one about looking up! Will have to try that. And the foreground images, too. We live on the beach so that will come in handy!

  16. Sharon O'Day

    Jamie, I spent several years in the 70s as an aerial photographer in the Amazon, documenting the entire area of influence of an iron more mine that included the mine, several towns, an 800-km railroad and a deep-water port in Brazil. Your composition tips brought back memories. But I have to admit, I’m about to drag out my old Canon SLR cameras … to add to the challenge. Digitals take half the fun out of it! 😉

  17. Martha Giffen

    Fantastic tips! I’m traveling this weekend and these will come in handy. Especially like the “look up” one!

  18. maggie currie

    Looking up is a great tip, thank you. I shall take that on board.

  19. Carolyn Hughes

    Great tips! Will be trying the ‘moving the detail to right or left’ – never thought of that!

  20. Anita

    Excellent tips, thanks for sharing with us :)

  21. Lisa D.B. Taylor

    Wonderful ideas. You’ve no idea how many times I’ve taken a picture only to realize there’s a basket of laundry in the background :-(

  22. Solvita

    Amazing ideas, especially I love about changing perspective! Thanks for the tips! :)

  23. Sherry Nouraini

    Great photo shooting tips, I love it! I am going to use these tips next time I take a photo.

  24. Helena

    Great tips Jamie! I’ve used the look up one before when walking the trails, but never thought of trying it on the street. I might have to head out with the camera tomorrow!

  25. Karla Campos

    Thank you for all of the great tips! I am not a pro but do like to take photos and I will definitely put your tips to use = )

  26. Marie Leslie

    Great tips for improving compositional creativity. I still remember my first assignment in my first photography class back in high school was to make a photograph with a “bird’s-eye view”(looking down) and a “worm’s-eye view” (looking up). And I think I still have the second print in my favorites box.

  27. Sharon G Cobb

    Great tips for photography even for the novice! Thanks

  28. MEL

    Great stuff! I’ve got a little of the photography bug and tips/reminders are always helpful!

  29. jamie

    Gorgeous! Thanks for the great tips, Jamie. BTW happy SITS day!

  30. Louise Ducote

    Love these tips! Isn’t photography fun?

  31. Tricia

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  32. Desirae R

    These are great tips! Found you through SITS and I am following by email :)

    • Jamie

      Thanks for following Desirae =) If you ever have a question about photography, send a message my way =)

  33. Maggie

    All such true tips and so very simple! I think everyone would be so much happier with their pictures if they followed them!

  34. Denise Malloy

    These are great tips! I love to take photos – and now with digital, I end up taking hundreds. But when I go back and look at them, I wish I knew more about composition. Now I do! Thanks!

    • Jamie

      Yes, digital has made it very easy for us to just keep snapping. I often stop myself to actually think about the shot. By doing this, I’ve been pretty happy with the results.

  35. Whitney

    That’s my next adventure…photography! I just wanna take better pictures and a new camera! Happy SITS Day!

  36. misssrobin

    Wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing them.

  37. Rebecca Rider

    These are great ideas!! I don’t know a ton about photography so I’m glad you were featured today!!

  38. Jamie H

    Such a great tutorial and things most average people don’t think about! Happy SITS Day!

  39. Morgan

    Good pointers … I so often just click off shots. I’m sure I’d be more happy with the results if I took these ideas into consideration.

    Enjoy your SITS day! :)

  40. Jester Queen

    I love that you have both examples of what went right and examples of what went wrong here. I have to say, though, that I love the VW bus picture, car and all. The speeding car just kind of adds to the effect for me. It’s like I’m going “HOLY WOW Yes I WOULD speed away from somebody offering me a massage in a VW bus!”

    • Jamie

      *giggles* Every time I see that VW parked along the streets it makes me stop… The first few times I saw it I thought exactly the same way.. who would ever want to get a massage there. No, I haven’t made the phone call 😉 LOL

  41. Kristin

    I love it!! When I’m doing an actual shoot, I don’t tend to run into this issue, but dang in candid shots, especially on vacation…the background! I invariably forget to check, and there’s trash cans or people or plants on top of heads LOL These are great tips, and all ones that I use regularly. :)

  42. Tracy Larson

    These are great tips and I like that they packed a real helpful punch. I can already see how I can improve my shots!

  43. Sheila

    I love this blog. Short (which is what I prefer) but with easy to use ideas. You gave me a lot to think about. I’m always wanting more time but by using a little bit of time composing photographs, I will save time and get what I want.

    • Jamie

      Oh Sheila, you’ve just made my day =) I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and hope you stop back again.

  44. Andrea

    Someday I hope to be able to spend time figuring out photography. I would sure love to have a creative eye! :) Happy SITS day!

    • Jamie

      Andrea, I think we all have a creative eye within us, we just have to try out new perspectives and different angles 😉

  45. Kerry

    I love these tips, and the photos you featured are awesome. Congrats on your SITS day!

  46. Marisol

    these are great tips! I’m constantly snapping pics with my iPhone and I can’t wait to try out your suggestions!

    • Jamie

      I love cell phone photography. There is just so much you can do with it now, and you can take some really great pics because of it. =) I wish I had instagram, but that won’t happen until I upgrade.

  47. Pamela List

    Great tips! What a treasure, I miss taking photo. I retired my camera when I stopped scrapbooking. I am shopping for a new one right now, will check back on these pages when I choose my new tool.

    Happy Sits!

    • Jamie

      Oh, I use to scrapbook all the time back in the day… but as I grew older I just struggled with what to scrapbook. So I scrapped that, and dove into photography headfirst 😉 LOL

  48. ilene

    I am always trying to get interesting shots for my blog – I am not great at photos – I love these tips – they are so helpful! Happy sits day!

    • Jamie

      Ilene, if you ever have a question about photography do not hesitate to ask and I will do my best to answer the question.

  49. Christina Morley

    Great post! I’m going to pin it now. I believe great posts should be shared. Have a great day! Oops, did I just use the same adjective 3 times? lol

    • Jamie

      Christina, thank you so much! =) psst: I didn’t notice.

      You know, I really need to start utilizing pinterest more than I do, and start pinning the articles I really enjoy.

  50. Ashley Marie

    Happy SITS day & Congrats! My husband is a photographer and I am constantly learning everyday. It was nice to read about composing your shots! Thank you for sharing!

  51. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    Great tips. Helpful to a blogger like me who really prefers to write but knows she needs photos on her blog!

    • Jamie

      I’m glad you enjoyed them Laura! =) Pictures do add a lot to a blog, but sometimes it’s nice to read a post without them too.

  52. krystle

    Thanks for the great photo tips! It’s much better than my point and shoot method lol.

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