Fundamentals of Composition #3

Fishing net and floats
Anacortes, Washington

One of the easiest ways to improve the composition in your photographs is getting physically closer to your subject. The picture of the fishing nets and floats above did not start out this way!

First I saw a collection of ropes (lines in nautical jargon) and floats in a pile along the dock. Since I'm a landlubber, they captured my attention and I took the shot below.

Fishing lines and floats
Take #1

The lines created by the ropes lead all over the place and the bright white floats create a jumble that's hard to decipher. There's no main subject here.

So I turned to my right and found a group of ropes, net and floats with fewer objects.

Fishing net, ropes and floats
Take #2

While there's less of a jumble, it's still hard to know where to look in the frame. The dark empty area in the upper left corner draws my eye away from the fishing gear I'm really interested in.

But within this frame is the simplified scene I was searching for.

Fishing net, rope and floats
Final take

Here I've framed the subject much tighter so only two floats show. And the ropes create a triangle shape that keeps my eye within the frame and moving around the image. The net serves as an appropriate backdrop.

It is helpful to make "sketch" photos, frames that aren't quite the final picture but are helping you figure out what will be the simplest, clearest image of your subject. That's a process of composing a strong photo.

Learn these techniques and others in Fundamentals of Photo Composition beginning March 4, 2020, at the Lifelong Learning Center in Missoula, Montana. Click here to register.