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Tips & Tricks

Before the Click | Compositional Advice Just Before the Shot

By Pye Jirsa on September 13th 2018

Composition can make or break an image. Even though there are compositional rules for photography, everyone’s photographic eye is unique. You can put one photographer in the same location and get vastly different results purely because of their compositional choices.

The next time you get ready to press your shutter button, think about these words of wisdom from 10 incredible photographers.

Ryan Longnecker – Instagram | Website

From doing wedding photography for 8 years and now in outdoor/commercial photography the question ‘before the click’ is actually two-fold: 1. what’s the subject? and, 2. why take ‘this’ shot?

Basically, if the subject is a person, a couple, a color, a shape, a texture, the abstract entire frame then how are you best directing eyes to that thing – and of all the shots you could take of ‘that thing’ why take this one vs. another one? It’s a question those that shoot film have to ask themselves more regularly but with the ability to throw a 128gb card into your camera it sort of diminishes the intentionality of the shots. It just takes some restraint and thoughtfulness. Asking either of those questions doesn’t guarantee any kind of killer shot, it just allows you to hone your skills rather than having every shoot feeling random.

 

Justin Haugen – Instagram | Website

In an area with lots of background distractions, you can shoot your way out of the distractions by putting your camera low on the ground and pitching the angle of the lens upward. Keep some distance between you and the subject to avoid lens distortion or awkward face angles. Be mindful of negative space and look for areas of the image that frame your subject.

Trevor Dayley – Instagram | Website

Before the click, watch that horizon lines don’t cross through heads and neck. I see this far too often— and even I do it myself more than I mean to.

Jared Gant – Instagram | Website

Before the click, slow down, anticipate the moment and be deliberate. Take a look around you to see what you can use to frame your subject or to add interests to the foreground. Don’t be afraid to shoot through inanimate objects such as table centerpieces, glasses, flowers, leaves, etc. One or two compelling photos are worth more than 15 boring ones.

Amii & Andy Kauth – Instagram | Website

Before clicking the shutter, we like to consider using a variety of tools to create leading lines and patterns. In this case, we used a copper pipe to create multiple rings to frame the couple. Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when you don’t have naturally occurring leading lines, patterns, or textures within your composition.

Vanessa Joy – Instagram | Website

Before the click, just take a second to breathe. Sometimes we click too fast and don’t take a moment to connect with your subject and find the best possible shot.

For this photo, the bride had a moment to relax and just be. It completely shifted the expression on her face.

Megan Allen – Instagram | Website

Before the click, utilize your surroundings to draw attention to your couple is a fun way to allow your viewers to roam the frame, but come back to your couple — which is always the goal!

Jay Cassario – Instagram | Website

Everything for me starts with light and how I can use it creatively to craft an interesting composition. The very first thing I do when lining up a shot or starting to think about composition is to decide how I want to use the light, or lack thereof (shadows). Composition is all about drawing the viewer’s attention to the subject.

The very first question that starts the process is how I’m going to use light to do that. There are a lot of other factors that come into play, such as leading lines and subject placement but ultimately for me, everything starts with light and how I’m going to use it. The way that I use natural light is a big part of what helps make my work stand out, and my compositions are based on exactly that.

Pye Jirsa – Instagram | Website

Before the click, scan the edges of the frame. Look for unwanted objects and distractions. In this scene, it’s easy to accidentally frame the hoses within the shot. Small mistakes like these can cost us hours in post.

Next time you click the shutter hopefully you’ll spend a short bit of time contemplating what exactly you are trying to create with your compositional choices. These tips are designed to help you learn and help you become a better artist overall.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Abhimanyu Rao Moonisamy

    Among the myriad of technical advices, we often forget to focus on the basics. This article is a great reminder of that. Thanks to the team!

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  2. Mircea Blanaru

    I really like all the tips. Thank you!!!

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Thanks Mircea! A lot of amazing professionals contributed to this one! 

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