How to make more dynamic, sexy, and edgy compositions:
LEARN MORE COMPOSITION
1. Shoot from the gut
When you’re out shooting, don’t use your brain too much. Composition should be intuitive — from your gut.
2. Internalize composition
To build intuitive compositions, study a lot of dynamic compositions when you’re home and not taking pictures.
Symmetrical pictures look “nice” but are boring. To make a DYNAMIC picture is to make a picture that is full of energy, life, and excitement — pictures that cause the heartbeat of your viewer to increase.
Dynamic pictures are uncomfortable to look at. Dynamic pictures are EXCITING and SEXY!
4. Dynamic and simple
A powerfully composed picture is both dynamic and simple. A simple picture is very difficult to make. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate mark of sophistication.”
To make a simple composition: CLEAN BACKGROUND, fewer distractions in the background, simple hand gestures (but complex in emotions), strong contrast (use a flash, or shoot in contrasty lighting situations with minus-exposure compensation), and with a strong singular subject.
5. Inject mystery in your pictures
Dynamic compositions require participation from the viewer.
A bad picture is too easy to comprehend and appreciate. A dynamic composition requires the viewer to use some mental energy — to appreciate the picture. Therefore, a dynamic composition will have some MYSTERY in the picture — which requires them to use their brainpower to interpret your picture, come up with their own story, and fill in any blank spots.
6. Dynamic compositions are off-balance
Anything that seems that it can fall over at any moment is dynamic. Dynamic compositions are also AGGRESSIVE. Study the architecture of Zaha Hadid— which is off-balance, aggressive, bold, elegant, and overwhelming.
Our pictures should not be meek. They need to be BOLD and MAKE A STATEMENT. They need to be opinionated — to show your opinion. Your perspective of the world.
Dynamic compositions are unexpected. They need to SHOCK your viewer a bit. Shoot from perspectives which are unique and unusual. Shoot from a very low angle, or from a very high angle shooting downwards.
To exaggerate unique perspectives, use a wide-angle lens like a 35mm or 28mm lens. Wide angle lenses add more DRAMA and DYNAMISM to your compositions, because they distort the scene, take on a wider view of the scene, incorporate more visual elements, and are more complex to look at.
A dynamic composition is DIRECT. When shooting with a wide-angle lens, shoot HEAD-ON.
Avoid shooting from the side from “oblique” angles. When you shoot head-on, it gives the viewer the feeling that the subject in the picture is going to collide with you. This puts the viewer in the shoes of the photographer, and transports them INTO THE PHOTOGRAPH.
Anything that puts the viewer into the picture is a good thing.
9. DYNAMIC EMOTION
A photograph without emotion is dead. You need to EVOKE an emotion from your viewer, or else they will not remember or feel your picture.
As humans we are driven by emotions. Evoke emotions in your pictures by making pictures that have EYE CONTACT, that are shot at a close distance (.7 meters-1 meter), that have dramatic light (use a flash, or shoot during “golden hour”—sunrise or sunset), or have facial gestures or hand gestures that evoke movement and emotion.
10. TAKE MORE RISKS
We all know how to make symmetrical, unambiguous, and “safe” compositions. Anyone can compose a “safe” composition with the “rule of thirds” and with symmetry.
But this is boring. Be more ambitious with your compositions, by adding LAYERS, DEPTH, and TILT your kens (Dutch angle). Get close to your subjects, be aggressive with your shooting, and put your focus to the subjects furthest away (pre-focus at 5 meters).
Don’t always focus on who is closest to you. Decapitate people by not including their faces in the picture— just show their hands, legs, or limbs.
Take your composition to the next level
Not satisfied with your photography composition? Take your visual artistry to the next level with ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE >
Dynamic Photography Composition
- How to Make More Dynamic Picture Compositions
- Unorthodox Photography Composition Techniques
- Deconstructed: Saigon Eric Kim Photos
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
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.