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Today we’re going to go over how composition can improve your couple’s posing flow! Do you ever go through a batch of images from a shoot and notice that the horizon line is askew, or that there was a darn orange truck in the background of your images? You know, those little annoying things that of course you can fix in post, but the good news is, there’s an easier and quicker way to create stronger images, and you can try them out next time you pick up your camera! Today I’ll go over some of the “rules” and steps I follow to achieve compositionally strong, visually appealing images in-camera that don’t need to be cloned and cropped later! Some of these things can feel like afterthoughts when you really just want to focus on directing your couple, but I promise these techniques are simple to use and will strengthen your portfolio all while leaving your couple with a more diverse gallery that they’ll love.
Background First, Subject Second: A clean, beautiful location is everything to me for making sure I can focus completely on my couple and directing them. When I’m not worrying about distracting lines and patterns, or ugly dead trees, or a ton of people wandering through the frame, I can focus on things like movement in my couple, their connection, and how they fit into the environment I put them in. I also like to create contrast using my background against my subject to ensure my couple will pop from the background.
Horizon Lines: Make sure your horizon lines are straight and level. This is probably my most important rule to follow. If you have to crop an image later to achieve a straight horizon line, you could be losing a lot of that image’s pixels, better to just slow down and get that straight line in camera!
Leading lines: Draw attention to your couple with lines that draw your eye to them. These lines can be found in the environment around you, which is another reason focusing on your background first! Leading lines are just another way to create a stronger image with the focus being on the lovely couple you have in front of you.
Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio: I follow these rules in so many of my images! These rules have been used by artists for centuries to create depth, strong composition, and create a balanced image. The Rule of Thirds is a great simple place to start for taking more creative photographs, and once you have that down, go one step further and implement the Fibonacci Spiral, or Golden Ratio.
Subject Separation/Figure To Ground: If you really want to emphasize detail in a photo, shoot with a shallow aperture and bring it away from the background. Using Figure To Ground composition can create a 3D experience in a 2D photograph. Do this by creating separation and clarity of your couples (foreground) against a minimal background. My favorite use for this tip is focusing on rings, hands, and other close-up details.
Don’t Cut at Joints: Ankles, knees, and elbows – never crop your subjects exactly at these places. These crops throw off the balance and focus of a photograph. It’s better to include the full subject and make small crops later if you’re unsure of the composition you want to frame them in!
Symmetry: Ah, my favorite on the list! I really enjoy archeological photography, which uses a lot of lines and symmetrical framing. Symmetry creates balance and clear focus in an image.
Natural Framing/Frame Within A Frame: Purposefully placing your couple inside other elements that surround them and highlight them is another of my favorite ways to draw the eye to them. I am always on the lookout for natural frames such as branches and doorways, fences, archways, bushes, and rocks.
Now you have compositional tips and tools to try out on your next shoot. I use these techniques and approaches each and every time I pick up my camera, and at this point shooting with a straight horizon and only cropping between joints is nailed into my brain, so that I can focus on capturing emotion and personality in my couple. One last tip too – you’re an artist, so feel free to break these rules as you see fit. While I think it’s super important to understand the compositional rules of photography and how they can benefit you, being confined by them can inhibit creativity. As Bob Ross would say, let’s get crazy, what the heck!
Speaking of capturing emotion, head on over to THIS BLOG POST where I talk about just that! I’ll walk you through my approach for quickly establishing comfort and connection with a couple at their session so that you’ll be able to create images that really feel like them.