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?
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.
4. Flash, head-on, subject leaving the frame
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.
Another example of a tilted frame, this time Dutch angle + fishing technique (waiting for someone to enter the frame):
Conclusion: Takeaway points and Assignments
- Photograph your subjects as they enter your frame
- Photographs your subjects as they exit your frame
- Crouch down low, and shoot your subjects off-center from a dynamic low-angle perspective
- Tilt your camera for more dynamic compositions (Dutch angle)
- Spend a month only shooting street photography with dynamic, off-center compositions
Fundamentals of photography composition
- Red and Green Composition Color Theory For Photographers
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Color Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Manual
- How to Shoot Color Street Photography
Learn From the Masters of Composition
- 10 Lessons Matisse Can Teach You About Art and Life
- Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition
- 10 Timeless Lessons Edward Weston Can Teach You About Photography
- 10 Inspirational Sergio Larrain Compositions
- 5 Henri Cartier-Bresson Photography Composition Lessons
Dynamic Photography Composition 101
- Introduction to Dynamic Photography Composition
- How to Visually Analyze Your Photography Compositions
- Dynamic Tension: Opponent Based Theory For Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Dynamic Photography Composition 101: Figure to Ground
Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- 7 Simple Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make Aggressive Photography Compositions
- 10 Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make More Dynamic Picture Compositions
- Unorthodox Photography Composition Techniques
- Deconstructed: Saigon Eric Kim Photos
Take your composition to the next level:
- Gestalt Theory
- 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:
- November 7th, 2020: ERIC KIM BLOGGING MASTER CLASS (Online, via Zoom). [Register Intent Here]
- 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.