Composition is the single biggest element that determines whether or not your photograph is interesting. I cheat, I start by travelling to really interesting places, so my subject matter helps alot. However, even with good subject matter, if you don't set the scene well, you may turn an interesting subject into a boring shot.

Do not center your subect matter
The first rule of thumb, centering is bad! Centering the subject matter in an image is often the intuitive way to frame a photograph, but it leads to non optimal results.


Observe the shot of the Grand Canyon with the moon centered. Certainly its not a horrible shot, but it would have been more interesting with the moon on either the left or right side of the photograph. In contrast, the photograph of the silloetted palm tree during a majestic sunset in Thailand is enhanced by placing the tree off-center in the image, the composition becomes more interesting.

Use diagnal entry points
Interesting composition can also be accomplished by composing the photograph so that your subject matter enters the image in an interesting manner. One simple trick is to use a diagnal entry point.

Observe the image on the left of a semmingly boring image of a glacier cutting through the moutainside on the trek up to the Everest Base Camp.By using a diagnal entry of the glacier and showing the mountains and sky to give the glacier some relative perspective, the image jumps to life.

Similarly, if one centers a race walker in the middle of the image, there is not a great deal of interest to the photograph. However, by using the arm as a diagnal entry point, the image is not only a bit off centered, but far more interesting.

While the contrasting photo is not unappealing, it lacks a bit of interest. Observe the diagnal entry of the river leading the eye up to the mountain.

Cropping to the rescue
Sometimes you may not take the perfect image right out of the camera. If you have enough detail in the image and are handy with a program like Adobe Photoshop, you may crop an image down to achieve a better composition. Just be aware the more you crop, the less resolution the image will have and therefore you will ultimately limit the maximum size you can print your photo.

Copyright 2004, Jeff Salvage