Not everyone can immediately take to the art of composition in photography. Neverheless, the difference that it makes to a photograph means that it pays to learn good composition. So much so that how you go about composing your picture can transform a good picture into an amazing one. The great thing though is that learning composition is reliably easy to do.
Here are some general guidelines to assist you in mastering the technique.
1. Avoid centering your subject within the frame.
If your subject fills the center part of the picture it trivializes the context in which the shot is taken. Context is what gives the photograph its meaning. Unfortunately, digital cameras make this habit harder to avoid, especially for beginners. The reason for this is that digital cameras display this center mark which may even light up and beep to indicate when they are in focus. Most of us tend to click there and then, but this can result in a foreseeable and boring picture as our subject is right in the middle of the shot.
In order to make the picture much more interesting simply move your camera a little to the left or right, up or down. This places your subject slightly off-center, with the photo finishing up being more interesting and expressive.
2. Using the Rule of Thirds.
You can use this advanced advanced technique to ensure you are not centering your subject in the photograph. Just imagine there is a grid on your viewfinder or camera screen. This splits the viewing area into 3 horizontal sections (top, center, bottom), and into a further 3 vertical sections (right, center, and left), forming an imaginary grid.
To apply this technique, simply place your subject either at one of the grid junctions or locate the subject into one of the grid zones: Top, Bottom, Right or Left. By avoiding the middle part of the shot you can take in much more of the surroundings.
Imagine you are at the beach, and you want to take a picture of your location. For this you might setup your shot where you have the sandy beach take up the bottom or middle part of the screen. You can have the sky in the top section only, or you could show more sky by making it fill both the top and middle sections, leaving the beach to show inside the bottom third of the photograph.
3. Watch out for the odd and out-of-place.
When taking a picture, we usually tend to concentrate on the subject. So much so, sometimes, when we later take a look at the photo, we notice something quite odd and completely unintended. One very common example is having a tree smack bang behind a person. You will not have noticed the tree when you were taking the photo, but later it will seem like it's actually growing out of the top of the person's head. Another example is where you have taken a lovely picture of a sunset on the beach, without noting the trash scattered in the sand along the water's edge, totally spoiling the effect.
Of course, all photographers occasionally make this kind of mistake. The important thing is that you can educate yourself to make them less often. By being more observant while setting up the picture and trying different angles for the shot you can almost eliminate the taking of potentially embarrassing photos.