Part 3 – Composition continued

As with all things creative, there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ composition. Photography is a subjective art form, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you won’t ever reach a point at which you have scored any kind of maximum points. But it is possible to have poorly and well composed photographs.

The last posting was all about the Rule of Thirds. It’s a good guideline to start you thinking about how you’ll fill your viewfinder. But in addition to that here’s a few more tips for you to consider as you get out and about with your camera.

1. Point of View

Move around, shoot from different angles. Most people shoot from standing height eye level. That’s OK but try having a look at anything other than this usual view. Getting low and shooting up on objects can make them look more powerful. Doing this with a flower for example can imbue in it a whole different feel. Get low or at least at the same eye level when shooting kids. Shooting from overhead or from the side can give a whole new perspective too. So move your feet before you decide on your best angle.

dude ranch wranglers


dancing in the saloon at black mountain ranch


string of horses tacked at black mountain ranch


2. Background

Look at your background as well as your subject. If you want to feature the subject find a simple and continuous background. Think about colour and or texture contrasts to make your subject ‘pop‘ from the background more. If the background is more than just a backdrop check the subjects fit or are framed within it. Watch for trees poking out of people’s heads and the like.

nature at black mountain ranch


life at our colorado dude ranch

 3. Depth

Because photography is a 2 dimensional medium, good composition can help with creating depth. This can be done by including objects in the fore, middle and background. Another technique is ‘overlapping’ where one object deliberately partially obscures another. The human eye recognises these layers and mentally separates them out creating an image with more depth.

out on the trails


saturday cattle drive at bmr


anna gives some tips at the range

 4. Leading Lines

Leading lines draw the viewers eye into the photograph. Often the most obvious and effective leading lines (which by the way can be curves not just straight lines), are roads in a landscape shot. Like this blacktop leading you into the surreal Badlands of South Dakota.

cowgirls guide to great photos

But leading lines don’t have to be so obvious to achieve the same effect. On the ranch the shape of the horses on the trail can do this and things like fences can work too.

They help with depth, create a sense of motion and enhance the narrative of the shot.

guide to great photos


dude ranch photography

5. Patterns, symmetry, and repetition

For some reason our brain finds lines and regular patterns pleasing. So filling your frame with such forms can create a really nice ‘graphic’ image. (Don’t worry if it means your rule of thirds goes out the window in this instance – rules were meant to be broken).

life at a dude ranch




down at the shooting range


tack room at black mountain ranch


 6. Framing

The ranch is full of objects which make perfect natural frames – trees, doorways, fences. Placing these around the edge of your composition helps to isolate the main subject. The result is a more focussed image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

horse at black mountain ranch


shot from the tack room at black mountain ranch


black mountain ranch

7. Simplify

Sometimes, as with all things in life ‘less is more’. Good composition can be achieved by what you leave out rather than trying to cram it all in. One subject matter in the photo can speak volumes. Take a look at what’s in your viewfinder and take out anything that isn’t vital.

Image 18


Image 19



Image 20

8. What’s the story

A photograph captures just a moment in time but a good one will often make the viewer want to know what the ongoing story is. So think about this rather abstract concept when you decide what goes in your composition. A good narrative will make the viewer gaze longer….

in the arena at black mountain ranch

Finally, right before you take the photograph take a second. Look up, look down, look all around and make sure there’s nothing missing.


Next week — Let there be Light 

Last week– The Rule of Thirds… 

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