Composition Part 1

What up everyone?! We are super excited to be talking about an awesome topic today that we just love! Composition! What you choose to include (and sometimes more importantly, not include) in your images will result in you not only being able to tell the story of what is happening in a much better way, but it also makes your images much more interesting to look at! We are going to go over multiple composition techniques in this series, and today we are going to start with some portrait composition ideas that you can use right away to help give your images a unique edge.


Today’s tip, Layered Composition:


Layering is a great way to add depth and dimension to an otherwise average looking portrait of your subject. Using more than one layer can take an image from looking very flat and boring, to looking like it has tons of depth and can even give it a “Photoshop” effect, since many times this is done in post-production by blending different images together. Let’s take a look at two different images and show you what we mean.


In this first images which Jody and I shot back in July of 2008 (we had been shooting for about 1 year pro at this point) and although the image has some cool elements to it with the lighting and the blue sky, it can be taken to the next level by layering the image.


Once we had shot this image, we decided to try and layer the image more by adding some foreground elements to give the image more depth. Here in the final shot, you can see the image jumps right off the screen and becomes much more 3D.


Both of these images have the exact same lighting and are in the same location. We simply had the groom crouch a bit to make him the center of attention, dropped the camera right down to the ground to get the grass in the foreground (which actually went blurry even though this image was shot at F/11) and then re-took the shot. You can see that we now have three total layers going on in the shot (the grass, the groomsmen and the sky) which gives it much more depth and dimension, and also makes it feel a bit unnatural, or fake looking, which we love.


That simple technique is something that we use constantly to help make images seem more interesting and much more fun to look at! Some other things to keep in mind are that the amount of brightness in the foreground can’t overpower our subjects faces (unless they are intentionally the darkest part of the shot), otherwise your eye will go straight to the foreground, or layered element, and it will take the focus off of your client. Let’s take a look at a few more layered shots and see how we did them.


In the below shot, while shooting the groom in some nice light as he put on and adjusted his coat, I hopped into the bathroom, partially closed the doors (kept the light in the bathroom on to show what the doors were) and then shot through the doors to capture this layered composition of the groom getting ready. In this case, looking through something, like the bathroom doors, gives the image a very photo-journalistic feel, like someone is peering in on the happenings of the day.

The next image here was a simple wedding photography portrait of one of our brides in California at a wedding we shot there. We pulled back, incorporated the cool tree (and turned our off-camera light so that it would rim light the tree and the bride and the same time) and then took the image. The shot then has the tree in the foreground, the bride in the middle ground, then the forest as the backdrop.

This below technique of simply putting someone in the foreground of the shot as the bride is getting ready is something that we do at many weddings. Again, be sure that the person or object in the foreground is not brighter than the bride herself to avoid any distractions. Nice shot Jody!

That is it! Go out this week and try adding some different layers to some of your images to see what a difference it can make! Happy shooting!