Some ideas for you to make more dynamic compositions:
One. Unorthodox Composition: Place Your Subject on Bottom of Frame With Negative Space Above
I stole this composition from my friend Charlie Kirk. Basically, have your subject on bottom of frame, looking up.
1. I love elevators.
Elevators are a good place to experiment with this. Simple background. Shoot wide angle, (28mm lens), and place subject head on bottom.
Example of two versions I shot of Cindy in Saigon, in elevator:
Lesson: ask your subject to look different directions (up, down, left, right) and choose your favorite version when you get home.
Make a mirror selfie, with you on bottom of frame. Here is one I shot:
Another version, this time a little more centered in the frame:
Pre focus on background at 5 meters. Shoot depth, with subject on bottom out of focus.
The reason this works: having an out of focus subject on the bottom of the frame encourages your eye to wander in the background.
Two. Decapitation technique
Cut off the head of your subject.
Selfie of me:
Clever photo by Vivian Maier:
Ask your subject to spread their arms. Don’t include their face.
Three. High perspective, looking down
Use a camera with lcd screen. Hold camera high, and point down.
Get clean, simple background.
Photo of Cindy:
Another photo from NYC, holding my RICOH GR high, shooting down.
Four. Super low angle, looking up.
Get super low, and crouch very low (squat until your ass touches the ground). Then shoot looking up.
Another shot, a street photo from London. I saw the background, and waited for someone to enter.
Use a wide angle 28mm lens, and put your subject on the extreme edges of the frame. It creates a surreal feel.
Distortion is generally not flattering for glamor or beauty shots. But they make interesting visual images for street photography.
But then again, using 28mm extends the body limbs of your subjects arms and legs. This can be good for vogue fashion photos, like this image of Cindy below on RICOH GR II in a bar in Saigon:
Six. Eye contact
This isn’t unorthodox, but imma share it anyways. Get eye contact. It is more intimate for the viewer:
Eye contact is also often uncomfortable for the viewer (and photographer):
Another technique: hold your camera up, wait for your subject to notice your presence, then shoot the photo. An example of a photo I made in NYC, candid, with the Ricoh GR. I was about 1 meter away from her:
Seven. Negative space
Don’t always fill the frame. Tilt your camera, and add unnecessary negative space.
In this photo below, see the girls eyes looking left. I have negative white space on the left of the frame, allowing her eye gaze to travel left:
Eight. Extreme depth
Don’t focus what is closest to you. Get very close to people in the foreground, but focus on the subject furthest away from you. I shot this film Leica, 35mm lens, f8, focus at 5 meters:
Another photo in England, man on the right of the frame is a “bookend” to add more depth in the photo. But I’m focusing on the background, at 5 meters. Shot also at f8.
Nine. Off camera flash
A photo, with an off camera flash. I put a flash on a chord, and held it very low, aiming up. Giving this man a “spooky” look (remember when you were a kid, and did this with a flashlight?)
Another candid street photo with the camera flash positioned low, aiming up:
Try to screw up a sense of perspective of reality with fun house mirrors.
A selfie photo in a changing room at a fashion boutique:
Another fun selfie, this time not showing my eyes.
To have fun with composition, just play around.
Tilt the camera. Put the camera on the ground. Shoot from very high, looking down. Blur your photos by shaking the camera when you shoot. Use a flash. Get very close. Play with your focusing distances.
There is no right or wrong in composition.
Just avoid boring compositions.
Photography Composition Inspiration
Take your composition to the next level:
- Center Eye
- Dutch Angle
- Deep Depth
- Leading Lines
- Figure to Ground
- Fibonacci Spiral
- Composition by Eric Kim
Street Photography Composition 101
For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”
Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- Composition Lesson #4: Leading Lines
- Composition Lesson #5: Depth
- Composition Lesson #6: Framing
- Composition Lesson #7: Perspective
- Composition Lesson #8: Curves
- Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits
- Composition Lesson #10: Urban Landscapes
- Composition Lesson #11: “Spot the not”
- Composition Lesson #12: Color Theory
- Composition Lesson #13: Multiple-Subjects
- Composition Lesson #14: Square Format
Learn compositional theory:
- Why is Composition Important?
- Don’t Think About Composition When You’re Shooting Street Photography
- How to Use Negative Space
- Street Photography Composition 101
- The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
Compositional lessons from the masters of art