Photographic Composition

Stark trees and driftwood at Jekyll Island in Georgia with birds flying in the backtroundDriftwood Beach - Jekyll Island, Georgia

Photographic Composition

I like musing about life when I'm writing my blog, but it is essentially a photoblog!

Someone recently told me she loves my photos and loves reading about my thought process when it comes to creating the photos, so I'm going to try to remember to include that more when I'm blogging. 

In that vein, today I want to discuss composition a little bit. 

I'm not a technical person, and if you read the blog a lot, you know I can get a bit hung up on the technical aspects of photography. But composition comes naturally to me - most of the time! I just know what makes my brain feel comfortable when I'm looking at a photo. 

I do see a lot of photos on social media that I find jarring because of certain features in the composition. A lot of composition is personal preference but there are definitely some things most people like and things most people don't like. 

I chose the cover photo for this post because it's a photo I like but don't love. I think it's because of the composition. 

Photo Composition Thought Process

When I took this photo, I was focused on one thing - the way the two trees appeared to be reaching out to each other with the top branches almost touching. 

I was tempted to center those top, almost-touching branches in the frame, but when I looked at the viewfinder, it didn't quite work. 


Because of the branches coming in from the left in the foreground. I didn't like the way they looked when I centered the trees. 

Yes - I could have Photoshopped them out or pointed the camera up toward the sky more. I tried that, but I didn't like all the open sky above the branches. It didn't look right. I wish I had taken the shot anyway so I could show the difference here. Next time, I'll try to remember to do that. 

I loved the starkness of the trees against the lush greenery in the background. I also liked the little bit of water with the driftwood in the foreground. 

When I was done editing, I still didn't love the photo. There was something a little off about the composition which had to do with the rule of thirds and the way the tree was falling out of the frame on the right side.

Adding Balance

After leaving the photo and coming back to it, I added some birds into the left upper side of the frame to balance it out. 

I still don't love the photo, mainly due to the branches on the right moving out of the frame. Sometimes I like the look of an object leaving the frame but not for this particular photo.

A Few More Photo Composition Tips

When it comes to composition, there are a few things of which you should be aware. 

  • Background
  • Aperture
  • Leading lines

The background - There's nothing worse than taking a nice portrait and then realizing later that it looks like there's a telephone pole growing out of your friend's head!

The background is so important but most people miss it when they're just getting started in photography. It's easy to miss, and I still miss things sometimes when I'm out shooting. 

I get caught up in the moment, see something, frame it, shoot it and move on. Later, when I pull the photo up on my screen, I can't believe I missed some big ugly object in the background. 

Aperture - Depending on your lens, you can blur out the background by opening the aperture so you don't have to worry so much about what's there. This works great for portraits. 

Keep in mind that if you're shooting during the day, you're going to let a lot of light in. You'll need a high shutter speed so you don't blow out your highlights. Also, remember that a big aperture means a narrow depth of field which can make focusing a challenge. 

Leading lines - Look for lines in the subject that encourage the viewer to look deeper into the photo. If you fight the leading lines, you may end up with an awkward photo. Don't be afraid to experiment, though! 

Here's a good example of leading lines - the railroad tracks draw your eyes toward the city in the middle of the composition:

A photo of the City of Atlanta with railroad tracks in the foreground leading toward the city

The City of Atlanta

Now you have a bit of my thought process for the top photo. I love the starkness of the trees, the way the trees were leaning into each other, but I don't love the right-hand side of the frame. I was able to balance it out with some birds on the left, so I'm happier with it. 

The great thing about digital photography? You can take so many photos and it doesn't cost a thing! 

Experiment with composition, aperture, and shutter speed - a lot!

Most of all? Have fun!

And have an awesome rest of your week!

See you between the raindrops!


You can find some of my Driftwood Beach photos on the site here.