Editor’s Choice: Great Photo, Flawed Composition

Some photos on Zonerama have major strengths alongside strong flaws. For example, the choice of subject is great and so is the exposure and focus, but the composition lags behind. That’s fixable! So today we’ll highlight a flawed gem and show where we’d cut it.

We have a repeating theme here in Editor’s Choice: the idea that photography mostly depends on a good eye, which then shows itself in the composition. Composition is your main contribution to your photos. Your lens doesn’t compose, and neither does your camera. Composition comes from you.

Photo: closedhead

Photo: closedhead

Centered

This photo is composed purely to the center. That’s not always a mistake, but here it’s a beginner’s mistake. To correct centered composition when it’s a mistake, you use a golden-ratio crop. Once you know the rules of this crop, you’ll know when you can safely break those rules and go for a center composition after all. Here it would have been enough to have composed the scene to make the sea form an unbroken line. Then the photo would be almost perfectly symmetrical, and the center composition would be appropriate.

Using Zoner Photo Studio, we’ve edited the photo a little to show you how it would look if its background were consistent. Of course it’s always best to get the photo right in-camera if possible, rather than retouching it later.

Using Zoner Photo Studio, we’ve edited the photo a little to show you how it would look if its background were consistent. Of course, it’s always best to get the photo right in-camera if possible, rather than retouching it later.

The Golden Crop

If you can’t use symmetry, then use the good old golden crop. You certainly won’t hurt anything that way. Compose your photo well before pressing the trigger, and then you won’t even have to crop it.

This photo as cropped to a golden-crop point.

This photo as cropped to a golden-crop point.

As an aside—composition isn’t just something for photography; it’s for film and painting too. But photography teaches you the most about it, because it lets you sit down and practice correcting your mistakes!

 

Last updated 2. September 2016

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Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

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Comments

  • Terry Byford

    For me, the final crop leaves the image unbalanced. There is roughly 1/3rd of it to the left of the main subject completely devoid of anything meaningful. I’d have placed the main subject to the left in the crop and which then balances with what was originally in the right hand portion. This also provides a more restful view of having 3 subject elements comprising the image. (The eye finds 3’s in imaging a better balance than two. Try photographing flowers. Two adjacent blooms don’t look as good as three.)

    • Zoner

      Hi Terry, thanks for your comment, we like your suggestion as well!