Photo Composition – Class 3

Casper College, 4/9/19
Instructor: Karel Mathison

Class 3 presented some new techniques along with critiquing student pictures. Most of the reviewed pictures were ones that we didn’t get to from class 2. Only 3 were from the class 2 homework. We didn’t get to reviewing any of mine.


Landscapes have three critical area that need to be considered and balanced, the foreground, mid-ground, and background. It’s really easy to take a picture of the mountains and not have enough of the foreground to draw the eye up into the mountains and demonstrate their rise and grandeur. Use a small aperture to provide a large depth of field that keeps all three in focus.

Try new perspectives. Most people take picture standing up. As a result images from a standing position tend to be normal. They don’t stand out as an exceptional image. Instead try taking them from a position near the ground or high in the air. This alters the foreground, especially, in ways that differentiate the picture from the crowd.


Again alter the perspective for the same reasons as with landscapes. With portraits, it has the added benefit of altering the relative side of body parts. For example, a picture from above will make the head appear larger. When a portrait is taken below, be careful not to shoot the inside of the nostrils. That’s not a view that people like.

Experiment with the eyes. It’s absolutely critical that they’re in focus. Viewers are unforgiving of out of focus eyes. Capturing a glint in the eyes adds life to the photo as well. Finally, experiment with the subject not looking directly into the camera. Looking directly at the camera causes the flat looking view often associated with a mugshot. Instead pick a location away from the camera. That provides a better profile of features like the nose and ears. When doing this don’t forget about the vertical axis. Having subjects looking a bit upward can give the impression that they’re watching something like a bird that’s out of the view. This adds to the image’s story.

Portraits are best when they have backlighting. The backlighting provides a glowing ambiance in the hair and around the perimeter of the face. When doing this a second light source, like a reflector, is helpful to ensure that facial features aren’t lost in the shadow. Experiment with moving the light source into different positions. This alters the shadows across the face creating different impressions.

Move the subject out of their comfort zone. Many people try to strike a pose when portraits are taken. While sometimes intentional, it’s often is the result of nervousness. Having the subject do something unusual, like jumping, sitting in rare position, or standing with a foot on a log, breaks down the tendency to pose creating a more candid and interesting photo.


Always use a tripod. Macro photos are so up close that even the slightest camera shake will create poorly focused areas ruining the image. A good macro often requires many attempts at the same image to get the camera settings optimal. This is difficult to do when the camera is hand held because the change in position between shots will alter what is needed for optimal settings.

Macro photos should always be taken with a macro lens. These lenses are specifically designed for close up shots. Macro shots with a general purpose lens is much more difficult.

When focusing the camera, it’s almost always best to switch to manual focus. The automatic focus systems have a lot of difficult when the subject is so close to the lens. You can almost always do better manually. It’s also advisable to place the camera in live view and zoom into the desired focal point. This makes it much easier to get a good crisp focus. Using live view zoom to focus doesn’t zoom the picture being taken. It just makes it easier to see what you’re focusing on.

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