Experimenting with Photography Composition

What makes an interesting photo? How do you improve your photography?

A lot of times, it’s the subject matter. If you’re photographing wonders like the Eiffel Tower or breathtaking landscapes, the subject material can make the photo. For skilled photographers, however, composition is key.

Composition can take an interesting subject and make it look ethereal or breathtaking. It’s also the artistic side of photography that encourages experimentation and new ideas. If you’re just starting your photography journey or trying to find a way to try something new, here’s how you can experiment with your own photography composition.

Composition Basics

There are plenty of “rules” and concepts for photo composition: the Rule of Thirds, the golden ratio, leading lines, negative space, symmetry, and more. These rules are a great starting point to learning composition, but they can ring hollow when you’re merely reading the definition. How do you take these basic definitions and turn them into practical knowledge?

You take photos, of course.

Choose an easy subject material for photos and try to capture it while employing different rules and techniques. Find an intriguing background that will compliment it using the Rule of Thirds. Look for an angle that could provide symmetry. Experimenting like this builds an instinct to photograph items in a way that’s flattering.

For more photo composition tips and tricks, check out this article on Photography Composition Tips for Beginners.

Change Your Technique

Sometimes we get stuck in the way we photograph as well. Do you use the same settings every time? A standard ISO setting and shutter speed?

Using the same settings is great for teaching consistency, but it can sometimes hurt your ability to get creative. Challenge yourself to try new things. Photograph with a large aperture opening that blurs the background. Most photographers keep their ISO at the lowest settings, but try experimenting with it if only to provide new challenges.

These obstacles are going to force you to change your composition. For example, sources of light get blown out if you are using a wide aperture. Adding these challenges can be fun and act as a mental puzzle to help you improve your photography.

For more on how ISO, shutter speed, and aperture work together in photography, check out The Exposure Triangle for Beginners. Once you understand the basics, take your experimentation to the next level: Creative Exposure: Underexposing and Overexposing.

Change of Scenery

If you’re photographing the same sorts of subjects, you’re not giving yourself much room to grow. Try night photography if you normally shoot during the day. If you live in a city, leave the bustle behind and try landscape photography. Changes in scenery will require different composition techniques and provide unique opportunities to learn. 

To learn more about different photography genres, check out some of our courses: Portrait Photography for Beginners, DIY Food Photography, Landscape Photography. You can also take our Photography Masterclass, which covers several of these topics and more. Or, you can get access to 75+ courses by joining our monthly membership: click here to get your first month free!

Challenge Yourself

There are so many ways to challenge yourself. Take photos with a tripod and try to improve upon them without one. Use a disposable camera that offers no customization. Make a game of it with friends and see who can take the most interesting photos of a subject material.

Composition is a term that covers essentially every creative aspect of photography. If you’re looking for angles, checking lighting, or examining the background of your potential photo, you’re already working on your composition.

There are plenty of “rules” and theories on photo composition, but you will only improve as a photographer when you step out of your comfort zone. If you’re willing to take risks, try new things, experiment with new styles, and force yourself to employ your creativity, you’ll develop the instinct to compose dynamic photographs.

Alex Briggs is a contributing writer for Brides and Film.

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