Composition: Photography's Most Underrated Skill

Choosing an interesting composition might be the most underrated of all photography techniques. Here is a tutorial on why changing how you frame your subject can make or break your image.

I say that composition is the most underrated of all techniques because it is the one that I never hear discussion about, especially from amateur photographers. I hear a lot about topics like gear, the exposure triangle, posing, backgrounds, and golden hour. I never hear photographers interested in learning more about composition, which is a shame, because I believe that it has as much to do with creating a great photo as any of the topics above. In the video above, you will see proof of how a composition can change an image.

Wayne Dyer said: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This video from Mike Browne is an excellent visual tutorial based on this statement. Here, Browne selects several potential photos and uses different compositions for each one to show why composition matters.

I also want to add that if this is a skill you want to improve in, one easy trick is to not shoot at eye level. You've got to break away from how everyone typically sees things. If you want to be different, try getting lower or getting higher. If your subject is small, don’t shoot down on it. Try squatting down to its level and get a different perspective than most people have. What about you? What other composition tips have changed your photography?

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13 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

Photography's most underrated skill: Waking up before sunrise.

Tom Gomes's picture

Most photographers I know are anal about rules and technical stuff. After considering light, composition is everything. Don't overlook the crop tool, it can be your best composition tool....especially with action photography, where you don't have much control over composition​.

Michael Jin's picture

The greatest composition in the world without an interesting subject is a waste of a shutter actuation. That's the kind of thing that happens when you make reductive statements about complex issues.

I am an amateur - its been about a year or so since I purchased my DSLR - and I admit that composition is something I am still struggling with. I am always cognizant of it, as I am with lighting, but when I am reviewing images in Lightroom I often feel like I have somehow chosen the "wrong" composition. When I say "wrong" I don't mean I tried to achieve a rule of third composition, for example, and I screwed it up, I question whether or not the rule of thirds was the "correct" or appropriate composition for that subject.

I could be over-thinking it or maybe I do chronically choose a bad composition. I am having fun working that out, though.

James Terry's picture

As I started out, i would try and take wider shots that way when editing my photos later I could figure out the composition with cropping. As I did that I started to be more aware of what I was doing and what I wanted the next time I went out to shoot.

I still struggle with composition at times but I think it’s just cause im not sure what i want to say with that particular photograph.

Percy Ortiz's picture

When I studied photography (3 years out of my life) composition was one of the core subjects that ran for 4 semesters out of the 6 the course lasted. I spent hours and hours of studying form, lines, arts, the work of old masters not only in photography but painting as well. Today you buy a camera, watch a few photoshop tutorials on youtube and bam! you're a professional photographer...

Vaidotas Darulis's picture

I completely agree with this, could go along with choosing a good subject as well yet I don't know if choosing an interesting subject or having a vision is a matter of skill.

Henry Williams's picture

I'm just amateur so can't speak about underrated skills from a professional point. As a writer for coursework help (https://edubirdie.com/coursework-writing and a few other sites), I could only say that attention is the biggest underrated skill in all kinds of human activity. Seriously, we are all lack of it.

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