Today, I thought I would share some photography composition issues from the our last trip to see the girls. We don’t often see the errors in others ways- but yet grade our photos so harshly don’t we. Yet, I’ve heard a number of photographer’s say it’s pretty much do as I say not as I do- because they make the same mistakes. It’s one of the good and bad things about photography- there’s always something to work on. And, I think composition is one of those things you never really master- there always an opportunity to improve.

My Photography Composition Woes are Opportunities

To be honest, I think evaluating your own candid children’s photography will always bring you to your knees. It is by far one of the most difficult things to do. And, we are almost always our harshest critic- especially when it’s something you are trying to improve on.

Thankfully, it’s not something I do for a living. It’s something I do for fun. And always, because there’s something more than a great photograph that I want to capture. So, I always try to look at it through two lenses:

  • what I can I work on for next time, maybe be more mindful of.
  • but, the ultimate lens of whether I captured what I wanted to capture- in children’s photography is often a look, an emotion, or a connection.

As much as I can lament the photography composition issues in these pictures, I know that I captured what I ultimately wanted to set out to capture.

The Hack Saw

There are simply places you should and should not cut body parts off to make a great photo. They become a bit freakish. But, where and where you should not crop body parts varies a bit depending on who you talk to.

But, let’s face it- she’s missing her toes! Urgh! The elbow coming off the right edge doesn’t really bother me- no hack saw feeling there.

Photography Composition Tips

(And yes, it’s blurry- well she’s blurry and the bottom of the frame is in focus- didn’t get that focus point moved in time. Things happen quick- especially when you’re alway keeping an eye on everything else including her sister. But look at the joy on her face!)

And then I cut her foot off in this one. . . .

Photography Composition Tips

And all that background clutter. This was a shot that at the time I knew didn’t really work. It looks like she was posing for me. If it had actually been a posed shot, I would have been able to ask her to stand somewhere else where my husband’s feet weren’t oddly in the frame and the table wasn’t growing out of her head. The truth is she was looking at me for just a few seconds- either because I said something, she wanted to show me what she thought of something, or she had a point to make. But, I love the expression on her face. And, I watched for it again later on.

But I like the way this one came out. Yet again, it’s not posed. . . I kind of like that the pictures not crystal clear- she is always in motion. I realized how often she makes this expression as I looked through these image. But, to me, at least, that hand at the bottom of the frame doesn’t feel so hack-sawed.

Photography Composition Tips

Technically- This one should have been more centered and the focus is off too- and it looks like my ISO was too low. It’s always something!

You’ll develop your own sense of where you feel the hack-saw effect and where you don’t. In general folks often say not to crop at the joints (elbows, wrists, hips, knees). But it really varies- and it depends on whether your crop it all or not. Just as we all have different tolerances for horror movies, we have different preferences here too.

Photography Composition Tip: It’s not just people you can feel the hack-saw with. I find it’s totally true with music photography. I’ll tell you this- an the next thing, space, are two of the things I battle at concerts with guitars too!

Give Me Space and Balance

Here’s a composition rule I’ve been working on for a while- the one I’ve really tried to focus on improving. . . and failed in this image. Spacing! It’s easier to get right when it’s a flower or mushroom, ain’t it?

There needs to be some space to the left of the playhouse in this image. Ideally, I’d have liked to have equal spacing around that “chimney”, the left side of the playhouse, and the bottom of the playhouse or deck. But, I managed to capture that crazy outfit.

Photography Composition Tips

Here’s a nice article about the “rule” of space. (Though I know nothing of the book they mention. For composition and photography books I recommend either David DuChemin or Brian Peterson)

Placement and the Rule of Thirds

If there’s one rule I usually have down pat- it’s the rule of thirds. I use it a lot- too much, I’m sure. But, you can’t always tell people where to stand in order to get them perfectly in the grid of course.

This one irks me. The balance is just off. In part because I hate to use a hack-saw on people, there’s not a lot of room in this one to correct it. Really neither of them are really on the thirds either.

Photography Composition Tips

I was able to sit and shoot this for a while though- because Amy Lynn asked Cody to go around the playhouse placing food orders over and over and over again- and of course, Cody did.

This one is a little better- This one has the space around it to allow me to crop it even better. But, I will tell you because my goal is always to get it right in camera, it still bothers me. I wish I’d have cropped in tighter (and working with my new lens it was possible.)

Photography Composition Tips

Photography Tip: I’m guilty of shooting at an angle too much, but it can lend a different feel to your photograph- like the image of Amy Lynn at an angle above, or help you with your composition- putting things in frame or keeping them out.

Of course, Cody didn’t move much once he crouched down to her level- giving me ample time to get this one right. (And I think he knew I was trying to get some shots of them.) So, I could get his eyes right there at that intersection sweet spot. It would be nice if the toy microwave weren’t in the shot- out of my control- but I love the joy on his face.

Photography Composition Tips

Here’s an article on rule of thirds photography in case you haven’t seen the grid and how to use it.

Rule of Thirds Photography Tip: Check Your Camera Options- My camera has the option of displaying a grid in the viewfinder and I always keep it on.

What are your photography composition woes? Remember they are opportunities to improve. Are you brave enough to show us one of those technically imperfect shots that still captures the story you wanted to capture in the comments below or on social media with the tag #compositionwoes?