Composition: Remember when you were 5?

Matt Krumins Photography Tutorial on Composition Techniques

My teaching style is to simplify what others try to complicate and this week we’re going to talk composition and I’m going to ask a special favour of you, just for a moment regress back to being a 5 year old for just a few minutes. Trust me, it will be worth it.

When we were children our imaginations ran wild; everywhere we looked there were faces in the clouds, arms growing from the crinkled bark torsos of the trees and imaginary conversations happening between inanimate objects. Sadly, as we grow older, many people lose the ability to see these things; a candlestick doesn’t have a face like in Beauty and the Beast, a teapot doesn’t have a spout shaped nose and the clouds are still interesting but in a different way. Me personally though? I’ve never grown up! As far as I’m concerned, Alice in Wonderland is just a country that I’m yet to visit, and I think that’s why I am rarely stumped when looking at the composition of subject in my photography.

We’ve all taken photos of people before and unless you’re completely devoid of creativity, the vast majority of us will take a reasonable composition of a person. As with animals, we have certain guidelines that come pretty naturally; leave a little bit of ‘breathing room’ in front of them to show the viewer where it is going, we don’t chop the image off too close to it’s head otherwise it looks cramped and suffocated, etc. These composition guidelines are almost instinctual to us because we can relate to people and animals, we know what part of them is important and we can feel how they must feel because they have a personality.

So how can we try and apply the same principles when photographing inanimate objects? Simple really – mentally stick some goggly eyes on it. You read that correct, goggly eyes, those crazy, whacky white stick-on eyes with big rattly pupils! Every object can be humanised if you consciously try and think about it for a moment. Just ask yourself, if this object had a face and a butt, where would it’s face be? Then drill down a little more, where would it’s eyes be? How about it’s mouth and nose? Now the easy part, photograph it like you would a person or animal. Give it breathing space in front of it, don’t crop too close to its head, etc etc.

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Imagining eyes on your subjects will change the way you see your photography composition 1Imagining eyes on your subjects will change the way you see your photography composition 3
Imagining eyes on your subjects will change the way you see your photography composition 2Imagining eyes on your subjects will change the way you see your photography composition 4

Mentally popping some goggly eyes onto your subjects can be a really simple and creative way to get an angle that really works! Physically putting them on the subject is less advisable, and photoshopping them on is absolutely inadvisable!

This way of viewing the world does take a little practice so I suggest starting with the things around you right now; if it had to, where would that stapler’s face be? How about the train you are waiting for? What about that building across the street? How about that tree? For just a couple of minutes per day, try and see things like a child again and I guarantee that you will never be stumped on how to frame an image ever again!

I want to finish this weeks Tuesday Tutorial with a shameless plug. I am a full time photographer, writer and teacher and I like to think that each week I bring you a little tid-bit of information, a little laugh maybe, and a little bit of a new and simplified way of looking at things. Help support me to continue this by sharing this article on Facebook, subscribing to my weekly tutorial just below and joining me in the flesh to discover how in just a few hours, I can change the way you see the world!

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