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5 Dynamic Off-Center Street Photography Compositions

To make better compositions, don’t center your subjects. To make your compositions more dynamic, put your subjects off to the side.

Why off-center composition?

Golden triangle composition in yellow. Lisbon, man in suit, 2018
Golden triangle composition in yellow. Lisbon, man in suit, 2018

To make more dynamic photos in street photography, don’t center your subjects. Symmetry is boring.

Rather, put your subjects off to the extreme left or the extreme right of your frame. Make your frame a little unbalanced, and try to apply the “Golden triangle” composition to your photos.

Below are some street photography composition examples:

1. People entering your frame

In this scene, I was going down an escalator at a mall in Tokyo. A woman was walking downwards past me, and I just shot a picture with my RICOH GR II in Program mode and flash. I took a photo as she was entering.

Note she’s in the far right of the frame, an intense look on her face, and strong diagonal composition lines.


2. Low-angle off-center

For this photo, I saw a man in a suit walking towards me who looked interesting. I liked the trees around him, so I crouched down, and shot with a flash (28mm on Ricoh GR II).

The photograph works because the expression of the man is pensive, and the fact he is off-center in the bottom left of the frame. Note the “Golden triangle” composition outlined in yellow.


3. Depth and off-center

This scene is interesting: I was photographing a woman walking up stairs, and I was from a higher perspective, shooting downwards.

She eventually made it all the way up, and passed me walking to the left.

This composition is interesting because you can see the depth on the right side of the frame that leads your eyes down the stairs. But you also have the woman walking out of the frame, on the extreme left of the frame.

Lisbon contact sheet walking woman

Portugal Lisbon


4. Flash, head-on, subject leaving the frame

Another interesting composition: shooting street photography head-on, with a flash, as the subject is leaving the frame.

This is a good aggressive street photography approach and technique. The composition is dynamic, off-center, and has energy.

Walking woman. Kyoto, 2017

Kyoto abstract


5. Dutch angle (tilted frame), with subject very small in the background

Follow your subject, look for leading lines, and make them look very small in the frame. But don’t center your subject.

Also experiment tilting your camera (Dutch angle) to make a more dynamic composition.

Dutch angle. Diagonal tilt. Tokyo, 2018
Dutch angle. Diagonal tilt. Tokyo, 2018
Diagonals and dutch angle outlined in red. Tokyo, 2017
Diagonals and dutch angle outlined in red. Tokyo, 2017
Dutch angle contact sheet.
Dutch angle contact sheet, Tokyo.

Another example of a tilted frame, this time Dutch angle + fishing technique (waiting for someone to enter the frame):


Conclusion: Takeaway points and Assignments

London off-center woman, 2018
London off-center woman, 2018
  1. Photograph your subjects as they enter your frame
  2. Photographs your subjects as they exit your frame
  3. Crouch down low, and shoot your subjects off-center from a dynamic low-angle perspective
  4. Tilt your camera for more dynamic compositions (Dutch angle)
  5. Spend a month only shooting street photography with dynamic, off-center compositions

BE BOLD,
ERIC


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Take your composition to the next level:


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

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher