How to Know Which Compositions Work

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Duration: 8:05

Quality compositions make photographs work, and original compositions are often the most memorable. Think about your own best shots or the compositions from the top professionals you admire. In this premium video lesson, Outdoor Photography Guide’s David Johnston gives you ideas on how to explore your photographs for future improvement.

Most of us outdoor photographers love beautiful compositions and take pains to get them right. David explains his own process. In the field, he captures hundreds of compositions from wide shot panoramas to small plants. Back in the edit suite, he goes through his process of selecting the best images to edit.

He suggests your first step is to pick out how the main subject stands out from the background scene. How do the brighter tones stand out? What are the lines that take you through the image? When you are shooting in the field, ask yourself, ‘How can I carry the flow and direction through the image?’

When analyzing your compositions, think about what you should have done and why they don’t work. Does your main subject stand out from the background and is there a pattern of lines that lead you through the image? David demonstrates with his macro image of a brightly lighted fern that curls through the soft focus background, which falls off into darkness. If you can control the lighting, you can create stunning compositions. The post production process allows you to play around with your best photos to improve each one.

Out in the field, take your time and focus in creating compositions you think are worth shooting, and then evaluate the results. The main two questions? Why didn’t an image work? What can you do next time to make it better? In this premium video lesson, Outdoor Photography Guide’s David Johnston guides you through the process of evaluating your compositions.