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Tips & Tricks

Photography Composition Tips From A Pro Who’s Shot For Life, Time, NatGeo & More

By Hanssie on April 24th 2016

It’s the wisdom of previous generations that has, historically, supplied us with knowledge, so we don’t always have to re-invent the wheel. Where it used to be through direct interaction or educational institutions, it seems in these days of information readily available at our fingertips, we’ve assumed that we can learn everything we need to know from a quick Google search. However, some of the most valuable lessons come from those that have decades of experience and knowledge, someone who has been in the trenches and hasn’t spewed out their mind on a webpage.

Photographer Bob Holmes is someone who we can all learn from, whether you have been a photographer for years or minutes. Bob’s career, spans over 35 years and has numerous honors such as being the only photographer awarded the Society of American Travel Writers Travel Photographer of the Year four times. Bob’s work has been seen in hundreds of publications including National Geographic, Life, and Time magazine, to name a few.

In the following video, Bob imparts some sage advice on photography composition, an aspect critical to the foundation of a remarkable photographer. The video is from the Advancing Your Photography – Marc Silber Show, and if you pay attention, you’ll get a peek into the mindset of a great, and it is in how you think that will separate you.  Photography, according to Bob, isn’t about the photographer; the photographer is secondary in light of the subject, and photographers need to “accept the images that give themselves to you.” It is critical to be 100% a photographer in the moment and know your equipment inside and out so that it doesn’t hinder the process.



While a short video, throughout it Bob encourages photographers to develop our eye by studying other visual arts, and any media that affect the way we see. This helps us look beyond the obvious, and to find the “punctuation” and geometry in a photograph.

As photographers, we need to learn how to look intuitively at the composition as “we are responsible for everything in the frame,” and it is through developing our eye that this becomes an extension of self. This is when we truly become great photographers; when our eyes see the rules of composition and know when to break them.

And as for gear? There’s advice on that too, primarily that you should know your equipment so fully that it is second nature and requires no thought, so you can fully immerse in the subject and action of your work. This goes with what he describes as the ‘National Geographic style’ of photography, that it’s photography that’s not at all about the photographer – in order to do that, you must be immersed. And the actual gear he uses? We can see he shoots Nikon often, but Holmes mentions that he shoots with a Sony camera with his favorite lens the Leica 35mm 1.4 Summilux so he can get close to the subject.

The video has many more nuggets of wisdom that we would all do well to listen to and heed.

See more of Bob Holmes’ work on his website here and more videos from Advancing Your Photography here.

[Via ISO1200]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Daniel Thullen

    I echo Mr. Hightower’s experience.

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  2. Tanya Goodall Smith


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  3. Andy & Amii Kauth

    That was an enjoyable vid.

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    When I bought my first SLR camera in 1980, there was no YouTube; there was no Internet. There was just books. I bought books from Ansel Adams, John Hedgecoe, and others. I learned about the ISO triangle from books.
    Learning about photography is more accessible these days with the resources available on the Internet.

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