Five main concepts you need to know about photography composition:

1. Dynamism

To make stronger photo compositions, you need more dynamism — or dynamic action.

That means make photos that have more energy, vigor, and life.

That means, making photos the opposite of static.

The worse thing you can do in photography is to make boring photos. Your photos need to be dynamic. They need to be ‘edgy.’ They need to stir the hearts of your viewer. You photos need to surprise your viewers, and needs to change their minds.

2. Tension

A strong photo composition has tension. That means, it has your viewer holding their breath– before some action happens.

The way you can create tension in your images: make your viewer feel uncomfortable.

What that means is make photos that are difficult to look at.

That means, make photos where your subject is looking straight into the eyes of your viewer.

That means make photos where your subject is about to enter the frame, or exit the frame. Use the ‘leading lines’ composition in this circumstance.

3. Unpredictability

You want to have the viewer ‘spot the not.’ Which means, find a pattern, then break it.

The reason why this composition works is because it is unpredictable. It breaks the flow. It surprises the viewer, which is exciting for them.

Cindy Project Monochrome-1

It is like when you’re listening to music– and suddenly the beat shifts. That is what causes you to skip a breath, and feel more engaged.

4. Small thumbnail test

Your photos need to have strong ‘figure to ground‘ to establish contrast between your subject and your background.

Another tip — look at your contact sheets, and ask yourself whether your photos work as small thumbnails.

Also as a tip, start off with high-contrast black and white MONOCHROME.

5. Does it punch you in the gut?

A photo without emotion is dead. You need to evoke emotions in your photos by making your photos personal.

Photograph your loved ones. Photograph life and death. Photograph happy and sad moments. Photograph self-portraits of yourself.

The more personal you make your photos, the more universal your photos will be to humanity.

And never forget; always shoot with your soul. Bleed onto your sensor.

Be strong,

If you need more composition tips, pick up STREET NOTES and attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.

Composition 101 >

Take your composition to the next level:

Street Photography Composition 101

Tokyo, 2012 eric kim street photography composition leading line

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Hollywood, 2011 eric kim composition jazz hands triangle composition

Learn compositional theory:

Compositional lessons from the masters of art


Composition lectures