Composition in landscape photography

Vieri

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Hello everyone,

how about talking about composition for a little Sunday fun?

As a Fine Art landscape photographer, I consider myself an interpreter. Nature and the landscape in front of me are the score, and my photographs are my interpretations of it. Personally, I think that mastering composition is fundamental to create your interpretation of a landscape, and sadly it's much overlooked these days. Out of the thousands images I see every day online, perhaps only a dozen or so are well-composed. Composition is the first pillar on which a great landscape photography stands, and it deserves more attention than that.

From the spatial relationship between different elements in the frame, to near-far compositions, to the compositional effects of changing shooting point, to using different focal lengths, to the compositional effect of choosing different shutter speeds and different diaphragms, the composition of a great image is the result of organizing the available elements of a scene in the best possible way.

To improve our ability to compose our own images, a vast "visual culture" is fundamental. That means studying the masters of visual arts: first and foremost, painters. Studying the masters of photography, of course, but without trying and replicate their shots; studying great cinema; and so on.

To start this discussion, let me offer 5 tips to improve composition in your photography.

1. Wait. When you arrive on location, don't start photographying immediately. Take your time to explore the location, compose first in your brain and then fine tune your compositions with your camera. Great compositions need time to organise and prepare, don't rush it. Wait, take your time. Then, when you are ready, start shooting.

2. Forget the rules. Knowing the rule of thirds, Fibonacci, Spyrals, Younameit, is fundamental, sure. Not fixating on them when you work, however, it is even more so. The rules should be working for you in the background, without taking center stage, not the other way round. They have to be there, but you don't have to apply them mechanically: that is almost surely going to result in contrived, non-creative compositions.

3. Corners and borders. Check your corners and borders: eliminate stray branches, control that you didn't cut off a piece of something that needed to be fully in, and so on.

4. Simplify. Composition, for me, is a subtractive process. Like in a good story, where you need to tell the reader everything he needs to know but nothing more, don't try to squeeze everything in your photographs: think rather if you really need all that you are framing to tell your story.

5. Experiment and enjoy. As with everything, practice makes perfect - or, at least, better. If you don't go out and photograph, it is very difficult that your compositions will improve. If you don't make mistakes, if you don't throw away images, it is nearly impossible.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Have a great Sunday, best regards

Vieri
 

Tropicalmemories

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All good learnings, but I think there may be an additional factor of 'intent'?

If someone is presenting an image as fine art photography for critique, then there are some established rules and expectations. But often people are just trying to capture a particular view, and then who are we to judge?
 
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Vieri

Vieri

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All good learnings, but I think there may be an additional factor of 'intent'?

If someone is presenting an image as fine art photography for critique, then there are some established rules and expectations. But often people are just trying to capture a particular view, and then who are we to judge?

Hey there! I am not talking about judging or anything, nor I particularly like rules as you can infer from my post ;) The purpose of the post was just to offer some tips for composition on landscape photography, that's all - this should be helpful for everyone, regardless of their intent, at least so I thought :)

Best regards,

Vieri
 

smoke665

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Hard to argue with any of the tips except possibly #2 in part. For me, I was born with a mind that can easily get distracted, rules help keep me on focus. I can attest that putting to much focus on rules can lead to tunnel vision which is not good either.
 

SquarePeg

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Excellent tips, thanks @Vieri !

I think if you practice following the rules they eventually become second nature and are always available to you. Once you develop that ability to compose your shots to best advantage without consciously thinking about the rules, you develop a “good eye”.

I always laugh when people comment “good eye’’ or say “well spotted” or similar as it gives the impression that the photographer just happened along and took a photo at an opportune time or from a good spot when in reality, a lot of thought and practice and timing go into making the shot pleasing.
 

Bollygum

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Makes sense to me. I will often find a spot with a beautiful view and stay there for quite a while trying to capture part of what I see in photos. Often, this is in a rainforest, so the rules of composition are difficult. Light is always a critical and probably the first decision. If the light is no good, I want stop. I then think of components and their relationships. What angles to use, what lens to use, how close do I get, etc.
 

Jean Green

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Not related to the photography but it made me remember the time my class in art school went to the river to paint. We did over 20 different sketches of the landscape from different perspectives before we painted the actual picture. I think it is similar to your first tip.
 

Dave442

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Thanks for spending the time to write down these five tips, sure beats those 10-tip links I see so often.
 

jcdeboever

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For me, seeing is the hardest part about photography. Looking is 2nd. Now what is 3rd. Am I dedicated enough is also a question...
 

Soocom1

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I discovered that its the unexpected results that typically give the better LS photos.
Some of the best LS photos I took was spur of the moment but applied some of the tips posted. (Albiet quickly).
 

Derrel

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I discovered that its the unexpected results that typically give the better LS photos.
Some of the best LS photos I took was spur of the moment but applied some of the tips posted. (Albiet quickly).

Interesting...maybe sub-conscious, non-rule-aherence (FREE-THINKING??) is at play in such cases?
 

Soocom1

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I discovered that its the unexpected results that typically give the better LS photos.
Some of the best LS photos I took was spur of the moment but applied some of the tips posted. (Albiet quickly).

Interesting...maybe sub-conscious, non-rule-aherence (FREE-THINKING??) is at play in such cases?
Naw....

Im a drone.
A slave to order and discipline...

:biggrinangelA:
 

Fred von den Berg

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Point 4 is a golden rule in all avenues of photography, I think.
 

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