Composition is an important element that can make or break a photograph. A well-composed photograph includes good lighting, a favorable subject, a complementing background, and good framing. The subject(s) should be highlighted by the composition, not become just another object in a cluttered space. All elements come together in a quality photograph to say what you want.

Each photo not only freezes time and documents history, they tell a story. First look at each situation as being unique, even each photo at the same shoot. Now think about what story you would like to tell. What are you documenting and who is it meant for? Who will see your photos and what do you want to show them? Your goal is to create order out of the chaos of daily life by framing your photograph’s composition with the viewfinder of your camera and capture what you see.

Look through your viewfinder and see the scene you are going to shoot. Does the subject stand out? Is the scene lit well enough to capture the image you expect? Now check your camera’s settings and change what you want before snapping the photo. Remember that harsh lighting and long exposure will wash out detail in your photo so CHOOSE to underexpose your photo by at least a 1/4 f-stop.

On my camera, there is a dial to control f-stop that will allow you to take ‘darker’ or ‘lighter’ photos. Use this in conjunction with the light meter in your viewfinder that will tell you when you have ‘balanced’ the f-stop and shutter speed to come up with a well-exposed photo to control the exposure of your photos. Now underexpose by a little to preserve highlights as post processing can bring detail out of shadow readily. Once satisfied, take a photo and review with the tools on your camera before moving on.

Look at the photo on the screen on the back of your camera. Judge its worth based on all the details presented and decide if it’s good enough to continue shooting. Check the histogram and see if the bulk of the light data is centered, or if it’s red/blue saturated. Check for clipping along the top. Now adjust camera settings for things as you see needed and shoot again.

While shooting, keep in mind several things like depth of field, your subject’s presentation, the visible background, and lighting. Make adjustments to your position to get rid of distractions, move the subject, use a different lens, get closer to subject. Remember, every element of an image counts and should be there for a reason.

There are several things to think of when deciding on the composition of your photograph:

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