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Composing images

When you compose an image it is really important to start by thinking about why you are taking the photograph.

What are you trying to say?
What is the subject?
What is the story?

This doesn't have to be deep and meaningful, it can be as simple as "blue sky", "Autumn leaves", "pretty pink things!" But you do need to start somewhere. It is really easy to just snap a photograph but to create images that are beautiful and meaningful you need to stop and think why you are taking it.

When you start to think about the subject of your photograph and why you are taking it, it really helps you to focus and to compose your image. Is the subject of your photograph one thing or is everything in the image important? For example you might be taking a photograph of a vase of flowers on your kitchen table or an image of your whole kitchen where the vase of flowers are a part of the whole image. Thinking about whether the image is about the flowers or the kitchen will determine how you compose the image, where you stand and how much of your image you would like to be in focus.

The rule of thirds

On your smartphone you can turn on a grid for when you are taking a photo. This grid helps you to apply a simple photograpy technique called "the rule of thirds". Some cameras also have a grid that will appear over the top of the image while you are taking a photograph. It's usually available under a settings menu or on a camera, it's often something you turn on with an "info" or "display" button.

Some cameras have different options for the grid to display. Try to find the setting that lets you do that, and look for "thirds" as the type of grid. If that's not available, use whichever grid that it lets you have.

If you're not able to pull up a grid, I'd like you to try imagining slicing up what you're seeing into thirds, vertically and horizontally like the image below.

On an iPhone you do this in the settings. Android phones usually have a grid setting on the camera itself. Please ask me in the group if you get stuck.

The grid enables you to think of your image in thirds. By placing your subject so that the main point of interest is directly on one of those grid lines, or even better where the horizontal and vertical grid lines meet, you can easily create a balanced image that makes our eyes happy! It also helps you to create images that are a bit more interesting. By placing your subject to one side, for example.

It's not a hard and fast rule - not all images have to follow the rule, but it's a great way to experiment with composition. Here's a diagram to show you what I mean. If you imagine you wanted to take a picture of any of these shapes (without any other shapes in the picture) you could start by positioning them at one of those four points.

Once you've tried that, try some photographs where you put the subject only within one of the thirds, or even only including some of the subject in the frame. Have some fun with it! You can always delete the ones that you don't like, and you don't have to share every one of your images.

An example of the rule of thirds

In this image (one of my Instagram posts!) you can see that I've positioned the very centre of the camera's lens where the horizontal and vertical grid lines meet.

Not everything in the image has to be at that point - none of the flowers or petals are! If you think to yourself while you are taking the image "what is the main subject of this image?" and then position it so it's at one of those four points it should look good.

Keep it simple

Turn your grids on, find a simple subject and take some different images of it. Really thinking about where you position it in the grid. If you want to share some in our Facebook Group that would be lovely! Have a think about which ones you like best. Do some make you feel differently? Can you create a feeling simply from where you place your subject in the frame?

Also take a look at some images on Pinterest or in a book or magazine and really look at the composition. Where is the subject? Can you see the image in terms of thirds? By looking at other images in this way it will really help you when you come to compose your own images.

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