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Composition: 7 Things To Keep In Mind When Photographing On The Go

What exactly does "Composition" mean when it comes to photography? Well, let's start with the most obvious:




1. the nature of something's ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.

2. a work of music, literature, or art.

Using composition for photography will be putting both of those definitions together to compliment the other. There are many things to keep in mind when photographing, no matter what it is. It could be a beautiful sunset, your dog chasing after a stick, your off-road vehicle you've posed along the trail, or even a selfie with your favorite mountain range in the background. While there are many different scenarios for the subject you might be photographing, the ingredients for a great composition tend to be similar for all types. However, sometimes rules are meant to be broken! After reading this, I encourage you to get out with your camera and try a few of these tips to start, then experiment with more once you're comfortable with the first few you tried.

1) Rule of Thirds

If you look through the view finder of your camera, some people might see lines like the ones shown in the photo above. When taking a landscape photo, most people naturally want to put the horizon in the center of the photo. This may work in some situations, however, landscape photos are usually either focusing mainly on the sky or the ground. If you're focusing on the ground, line the horizon up with the bottom line in this grid. If your focus is the ground, line up the horizon with the top line. This will create more space in your photo for what you're trying to emphasize on.

When you're including some kind of subject in your photo (like the tent in the photo above) try to line that up with one of the 4 sweet spots, as I call them. These are where the horizontal and vertical lines cross, creating points of interest and naturally pleasing locations for the subjects in photographs.

2) Filling The Frame

When starting out, it can be easy to want to include the full subject in your photos, and sometimes that's exactly what you should do! There are also times to use this rule of "Filling the frame" to create more of an impact or capture the mood of a photo. It's also a great way to show detail or texture. It also eliminates any distractions that you didn't want to include but might draw the eye of the viewer instead of your intended subject. Here are some examples of how using this type of composition could look:

Instead of this... Try this!

Instead of this... Try this!

3) Leading Lines

Including lines in your photographs can help draw attention to a specific area you want the viewer to see. Whether they're natural lines such as rivers, trees, shorelines or sun rays, or man-made lines like roads, fences, or bricks, they can really make a photo much more interesting if they're used correctly. Use these leading lines to draw the viewer deeper into the photo, make their eyes travel along a certain path, or direct attention to the subject of the photo. Here are a few examples of how leading lines could be used to make a photo more interesting:

4) Backgrounds

It can be easy to see a great photo opportunity and quickly grab the photo before it disappears without thinking of what might be in the background, as long as you get the important event that made you pull the camera out, right? Right! But when you're showing your buddies the photo and they start pointing out what's going on in the background, it makes the photo lose its sense of "awesomeness". Trust me, this takes lots and LOTS of practice, but once you have it down it will be muscle memory to train your brain to see what's going on in the background of your photos. No one can stress this important rule enough, it's ultimately up to you to see beyond the subject and make adjustments accordingly. Is there some random person hiking the same trail further ahead and wearing a bright yellow jacket? That might stand out more than your hiking partner posed along side the trail ready for their new profile picture to be taken. If you look for these things, you'll train yourself to move a little to the left to block out the bright jacket, or wait a few minutes until they're out of sight. It can be tricky, but with a lot of patience it will become second nature and make a world of difference in cleaning up your photos!

5) Symmetry & Patterns

You may not realize it much now, but once you start looking around you'll notice patterns are EVERYWHERE! Patterns bring a sense of natural rhythm and are very pleasing to the eye. Anywhere there are bold lines, shapes or colors repeating themselves is a great place to start looking for a pattern. They can be symmetrical or asymmetrical and both be equally as pleasing. They make for a strong piece in any photo album, blog post or anywhere else you can make them work. (I wouldn't recommend getting that close to a snake for a photo like that though!)

6) Point of View

Using a unique point of view can give a photo a whole different of meaning. If done correctly they can make the viewer feel like they're actually where you are and experiencing the same things you were at the time the photo was taken. They can be extremely powerful and capture so many different senses and emotions. Using this in creating your photo will guarantee a lot of feedback from your audience. When you're setting up to get a photo of a certain subject, experiment with using a perspective that's unique and in the moment to let the viewer really feel like they're in your shoes when they look at your image.

7) Breaking the Rules

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, rules are meant to be broken! There are always exceptions to these rules of composition and different situations for every photograph taken. It would be impossible to list every different thing you could do vs. things you shouldn't do. Or things to remember and things to think about. I'm still learning SO much about photography too and will be for as long as I can hold a camera. It's a never ending cycle of learning new things and new ways of doing different things. Here are some photos that are perfect examples of why the rules are meant to be broken in some situations...

I hope you learned something and can apply a few of these composition rules to your photography out on the trails! If you have any questions or comments about this blog post or would like to add your own tips and tricks for remembering these or other photography rules, please leave a note down below in the comment section! We'd love to hear from you!

Good luck and see you out on the trails! :)

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