This is where the fun happens!

You have taken last month to learn about your camera, practiced in manual mode and changed some settings for better outcomes. Now, this month I want to introduce composition. I want you to have lots of fun with this and call out your creativity. Don't compare your work to others. Just go out and decide what speaks to you.

Have you ever taken a photo you were so proud of, but wasn't really sure what it was that made you like it so much? I am hoping through this lesson, you will learn some basic ways to set up your photos and teach you how to recreate photos you love, every time. Then when you take a photo, you will know why you like that style and know how to go out and take a similar photo.

Basically, composition is how you place things in a photo.

This includes everything in your photo. Background, trees, subject...everything. Obviously, you can't just pick things up, like a tree, and move them in a photo. You actually have to do the moving to change where and how they will be positioned. In this lesson, I am going to give you a variety of ideas on how to compose your photo. I will give you a brief explanation for each, then I want you to go and practice that for the week. Below are four weeks of composition ideas (we will talk about more in July, after lighting in June), to not overwhelm you and to give you some great practice. Let's begin!

Week 1: Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds is one of my favorites. Here is the short and sweet explanation. If you divide an image in thirds by drawing imaginary lines both horizontally and vertically, you are creating a grid to start from. Use the grid to either place your subject on the lines, where lines cross, or fill up sections of the thirds. The grid on the photo below is a sample. In this image, my subjects take up the lower 2/3. Alright, scroll down to see the other examples for this week.

Assignment: I want you to try out at least 3 different ways to use the rule of thirds. And please, send me any photos you have taken and feel proud of. I really want to be here to help you grow and celebrate with you. Ready...GO!

mother and her three daughters are sitting on a rocky and blossoming hill, with a rule of thirds grid across photo

Here are a few ways to use this grid:

woman with a stylish hat looking off to the side and smiling while standing on top of a rocky hill

1) Place your subject on a line.

In this image, my subject is on the far right vertical line.

family walking up a grassy hill

2) Place your subject where the lines cross.

In this image, my subjects are where the far left vertical and bottom horizontal lines cross.

tall, rocky hill with a family of five standing at the top

3) Fill 1/3 or 2/3 of your image with your subject.

In this image, my subjects are filling the top, horizontal 1/3 or my image.

Week 2: Leading Lines

Leading lines is also a really fun way to capture life. This is where you find natural lines in the world that lead to your subject. Some examples are railroad tracks, roads, fences, trails, rivers, etc. Find those leading lines and place your subject towards the end. These lines guide your eyes to your subject. Just wait, now that you know this, you will be noticing these leading lines everywhere! Sample below.

Assignment: Go find those leading lines and take lots of photos! They are out there.

teenage boy sitting on the ground next to a wooden fence

Notice in this photo, the fence is our leading line that brings your eyes to our subject.

Week 3: Framing

Framing photos is a very unique way of guiding your viewers eyes to your subject. I don't do this one enough, but it is really neat. Basically, you find an object to encircle your subject. Some examples of those objects are arches, decorative fencing, trees, windows, etc. This could mean shooting through an object, but keep a bit of the object you are shooting through, in the photo. Samples below.

Assignment: go take some "framed" photos. Get creative and see what you can find to frame your subject!

flowers framing kids who are playing in a grassy opening with tall trees around

In this image, the flowers add a type of framing the kids.

three siblings are inside and looking outside through the window, laughing

Here the frame is the window.

outdoor maternity photography session with brindy ruby photography.  expectant mother stands in front of tall thistles.

This image is half framed by the wood post on the left.

Week 4: Depth of field

This one can seem a little tricky at first, but once you understand it, it can be a huge game changer in your photos.

When people talk about depth of field in photography, they are referring to the amount of your picture that is in focus and the space that is out of focus. When you take a photo, you focus on a point in your photo, right? From there, your image will gradually become less in focus. Depending on your aperture settings, you can make a larger amount of your photo in focus or a smaller amount in focus. I tend to like to keep smaller amounts of my photo in focus. I like to let my backgrounds fade out and my focus jump out more. How do you achieve this? Read on.

The bigger aperture opening you have (the smaller the number, like 1.2), the more narrow depth of field you will have. Meaning, less of your image will be in focus. For example, if I have a cute little toddler who just picked a flower and I just want the flower to be in focus, I will keep a big aperture opening/small number and get closer to my subject to take the picture. The girl will be out of focus and the flower will be in focus. Also, the distance between you and your subject is also going to change the appearance of the depth of field, along with zooming in or out with your lens.

young girl holding yellow flowers with them in focus and she fades out of focus with a shallow depth of field

I want to share another example, let's say I am taking a photo of a family and I want them to mostly all be in focus. Then I am not going to be too close and I will bump my aperture opening smaller/bigger number, like 4.0 - 5.6. This is all a preference and goes along with your style.

Your assignment for this week is to practice taking photos with different depths of field.

Here are some to try:

  • F-stop 2.8, standing close to subject. Then keep the same distance, but change your f-stop to 5.6 and snap a photo.
  • F-stop 2.8, standing far from subject. Then keep the same distance, but again change f-stop to 5.6 and snap photo.
  • Now try any other variations. What do you prefer?

Alright, I can't wait for you to practice these basic and creative ways to compose a photo. I sure hope it is fun and I definitely want to see what you come up with. Please share by sending me an email or via social media!