11 Pro Tips for Composing your Photos – with Ian Plant

Photographic composition – we all know the rules, right? And we all know that the first thing you learn is the Rule of Thirds. Well, here’s a talk by one of the world’s best landscape photographers, Ian Plant. Quite refreshingly, Ian does not talk about “rules”, he talks about “tools of Composition”, deliberately not mentioning the Rule of Thirds.

Ian uses his stunning imagery to show you examples of very compelling compositions and dissects them to show you the compositional tools he used to create them. The images alone are worth your time when you watch this video. Enjoy!

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Ian’s tools of composition

  1. Don’t be so literal. Think in the abstract. Think of your photos in terms of compositional elements, not merely in terms of the subject itself (jump to video section).
  2. Foreground. Especially in landscape photography, you should try to find an attractive foreground to complement the overall scene (jump to video section).
  3. Shapes. Think about the shapes that the elements in your images create. Shapes do not need to be physical. They and often created by the interaction of shadow and light (jump to video section).
  4. Lead the eye. There’s more than leading lines to leading the viewer into your image. You can also use light and dark or color transitions (jump to video section).
  5. Shooting through. Use the foreground to create an abstract wash of color with a sharp object in the background. You can do this, for example, by shooting through leaves and getting really close to the foreground with a wide-open aperture (jump to video section).
  6. Diagonals. Diagonal lines are a very effective type of lines to use in your images. They are more dynamic than horizontals or verticals (jump to video section).
  7. Counterpoint. The juxtaposition of two or more points of interest in a photo can make it very interesting. It traps the viewer in your composition and makes them wander back and forth instead of just glancing at it (jump to video section).
  8. Visual anchors. In complex chaotic scenes, it is really useful to give the viewers an anchor. Motion blur combined with a bold bright object (the anchor) is one very effective means to achieve this (jump to video section).
  9. Patterns. A pattern often emerges if you follow point no. 1 (don’t be so literal) and the objects in your image merge to form something more abstract. They can be repetitive and opposing, and they can act as visual anchors (jump to video section).
  10. Into the sun. Shooting into the sun often creates very interesting shadows that act as lines. It can also create very interesting rim light and halo effects if done right. You can create starburst effects as additional elements in your photos (jump to video section).
  11. Reflections. Reflections can help you create bold, compelling and symmetrical compositions. By changing your angle of view, you can create a really interesting tension between the subject and its reflection. Reflections can also be thought of and created in an abstract way without even having a reflective surface and just arranging the elements in your scene (jump to video section).

Check out Ian’s website where he presets his stunning images and some very helpful tutorials and products.

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