Home Beginners Basics of Composition

Basics of Composition

Image Composition

Composition and framing are both a big part of what seperates beginner photographers, from pros.  It’s easy to spot first time photographers when the athlete is right in the middle of every shot.


These tips will help you take a different and more effective approach to capturing exciting and unique images.

  • Get the athlete out of the middle of the picture!  This is the most common issue that beginner photographers have.  They may have great lighting and exciting action, but usually, a centered athlete will make the shot far less appealing.  Try composing with the athlete coming into, or leaving from the frame.
  • Apply the “rule of thirds”, but also, don’t be afraid to break it.  The “rule of thirds” is when you visually divide your image into three segments.  It can mean a lot of things but the idea is that the different components of the image (i.e. horizon, athlete, sky, trees, etc…) are split into three different segments.  This way, things aren’t centered in the middle.  It not only applies vertically, but also side to side, so it technically divides the image into 9 segments.  Composing using this rule can lead to much better images.  See how this image is divided into thirds?
  • De-clutter the background.  This can vary depending on what you’re shooting, but if you seperate the athlete from the background, it makes them pop right away.   If the athlete is in the light, composing with shadows, dark trees, or sky behind them will make them stand out.  Try looking for a background that is either much darker than the athlete (unless the athlete is a silhouette) or that is a very simple or even texture.  Notice what clothing they are wearing, and if possible, have them wear colors that are bright and won’t blend in to the location you are shooting. (Green clothing in the pine trees is a bad idea….)
  • Frame the image!  This is something you can’t always do that will make the image more intriguing.  Framing is when you use some foreground or background component to surround or outline the athlete.  Trees work really well for this, and when used to surround the athlete give the image more depth.080210-0260.jpg
  • Compose with a cool foreground or background element.  Use the unique scenery around you!  Adding elements like this will really make your image shine.  It add’s depth, texture, and scale to the image.  Want to show how big an athlete is going?  Show a cool tree in the shot that give’s scale to the feature.
  • Show the scenery!  One of the best, surefire ways to make your image amazing is to capture the scenery.  Show some mountains in the shot, compose so that the viewer can see the amazing location that the sport is taking place in.  Too many photographers will shoot in incredible locations and only showcase the athlete and part of the feature.  Pretend you are a scenic photographer, but still compose in a way where the athlete is noticeable in the image.  These are the images that will make you a pro!_MG_0395
  • Shooting a jump?  Compose with the landing, takeoff, or both.  Without these components the shot won’t make sense.  Don’t shoot “guy in the sky” where nobody really knows what’s going on…


That’s pretty much it.  You won’t use all of these on every shot, and be sure to remember that these are not rules!  They are simply guidelines that can help with images.  Sometimes shots will work better if these aren’t followed.  Like the shot below.  See how the athlete is right in the middle of the frame even though we just said that you shouldn’t do that?  In this case, it worked!  Go with your instinct and don’t let what other photographers tell you run your life.  Have fun on your shoots and enjoy what you do!


Next Guide Article:  White Balance Explained



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