10 Landscape Composition Tips: Illustrated with Pictures from Eastern Washington - Digital Photography School

10 Landscape Composition Tips: Illustrated with Pictures from Eastern Washington

A Guest post by Amar Ramesh.

Landscape Composition 11.jpg

Composition for a photograph is like a screenplay for a movie. If the picture isn’t composed well, it won’t strike a cord with the viewer regardless of the technical expertise or the story being told. Composition skills improve over time with constant practice. Here are some of the basic composition tips with a picture to illustrate each of those tips. The example pictures were all taken in one day while driving through Eastern Washington. These tips will help train your eyes to see the frames, an important point if you want to take great pictures.

1. Remember rule of thirds

A basic tip to remember if you want to improve your composition skills. The human eye is generally drawn to a point one third of the way from the top, bottom, right or left of any image. Keep this in mind as you work on your composition. Read more about the Rule of Thirds.

2. Negative space is your friend

Landscape Composition 22.jpg

Don’t always try to fill the frame. Negative space can be used to your advantage. Remember, it is just as important as the main subject.

3. Embrace Geometry

Landscape Composition 33.jpg

Train your eyes to look for lines, patterns and shapes. They give structure to your picture and help highlight the three dimensional quality of your subjects. Lines lead the viewers’ eyes into or out of the picture. Find a subject for the center of attraction and then find lines that lead to it.

4. Frame within frame

Landscape Composition 44.jpg

Used effectively, foreground framing directs the viewer’s eye right to the subject. Look for frames of different shapes and sizes. They don’t always have to be windows and fences. They could be big trees as in this example.

5. Avoid horizon in the middle

Landscape Composition 55.jpg

Keep your horizon level and keep it out of the center of the picture. If the sky is more interesting pull the horizon down and if the land is more interesting push the horizon up.

6. Inject life to your picture

Landscape Composition 66.jpg

Try to place a living being in the picture. It shows dimension and emphasizes the scale of the frame to the viewer.

7. Merges breaks a picture

Landscape Composition 77.jpg

When lines of the horizon intersect with your subject it distracts the viewer and moves the attention away from your subject. It can spoil a great composition. Take some time move your frame up or down, left or right to avoid the horizon merge. In the example picture below, I took extra care not to make the horizon meet the edge of the barn.

8. Lonely subjects are striking

Landscape Composition 88.jpg
Single subjects like trees, barns, buildings, motorcycles almost always make for great compositions. I love pulling them into the frame. Here’s a small collection of such pictures from my archives that have a single tree in the frame.

9. Size Matters

Landscape Composition 99.jpg
Try to include a subject that would give the viewers a scale of the scene in the frame. Use people or objects that let viewers relate size in your composition.

10. Think before you click

Landscape Composition 1010.jpg
As is the case for any type of photography, think before you click the shutter button. Make sure there are no unnecessary objects that would affect your composition. If possible move those objects or try to move yourselves to see if you can avoid them from your composition by moving yourselves.

Following these simple techniques will improve your photography leaps and bounds and keep you ahead of the rest. These illustrations does not fit only for landscape photography but for all other types of photography. The entire collection of my eastern washington pictures can be seen here.

Amar Ramesh is an emerging photographer from Redmond WA, USA. Photography, to him is a passion with infinite opportunities and he loves to share the lessons and tips that he learned with others. Please visit his Facebook Page for more. He is also in Flickr | Twitter | Portfolio.

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Some older comments

  • Mike Harroun

    January 28, 2013 03:33 am

    Excellent advice: both the tips themselves and the images. A great resource.

  • Rajiv Kumar

    August 12, 2012 03:02 pm

    wonderful tips and pics

  • Guigphotography

    August 12, 2012 03:07 am

    Great article and shots. Good reminder for me to seek out bright and colourful landscapes too as I do tend to lean toward the moody and dramatic!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/7669925436/in/photostream

  • Sachin Verma

    August 11, 2012 03:15 pm

    http://www.photo-roll.com/2012/04/sanjauli-in-hdr/

  • Badflea

    August 10, 2012 07:13 am

    Beautiful photos!
    Here my last landscape...

    http://pdf34.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/passeggio-tra-le-nuvole-hiking-through-the-clouds/

  • Sreenivasa Sudheendra

    August 9, 2012 04:35 am

    Beautiful photos love the composition:)

  • Alexander Catastroff

    August 9, 2012 03:43 am

    The picture on tip number 5 looks like the old default microsoft wallpaper.

    That being said, this is an incredibly lovely post. Very helpful! I'm going to be travelling for 5+ years across North America and Europe and perhaps Asia so these tips are really helpful. I appreciate it.

    http://disney-photography-blog.com/

  • marius

    August 8, 2012 02:54 pm

    Good pics;some om my:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.ro/2012/06/peisaje.html

  • raghavendra

    August 8, 2012 01:20 pm

    Landscape compositions the background makes it more beautiful :)

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.in/2011/08/train-comes.html

  • Steve

    August 8, 2012 07:45 am

    Symmetry and simplicity:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-Spain-The-Costas/G0000Qp9QOeUBwDA/I0000zSD4xT9VW.w

  • Scottc

    August 8, 2012 07:38 am

    Useful tips and beautiful photos.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4281006151/

  • Jai Catalano

    August 8, 2012 06:36 am

    I wonder how long you have to wait to see a lonely white car pass by? Inspirational :)

  • tjjohn

    August 12, 2011 01:43 pm

    This is one of the best set of tips I have read in some years. They are simple,concise and to the point just like the photographic examples.

    Great work

    tjjohn

  • Melanie

    March 2, 2011 01:41 am

    I'm from Pullman, (eastern WA for all those that don't know). nice shots of the palouse!!

    GO COUGS!

  • Grace Harvey

    August 13, 2010 03:22 am

    Thanks for the interesting tips on improving photography but at this time I need to unsubscribe
    Thank you

  • young youn

    August 6, 2010 08:23 am

    Thank you very much for great teaching!

  • Thabo Buthelezi

    July 28, 2010 03:24 am

    I'm enthusiastic about becoming good and being able to give commands to my camera, but these pictures had just proved me right. Sleak, holy and artistic

  • Rosie Girl

    July 25, 2010 04:00 am

    I enjoyed this post so much I shared it with my readers today. Link can be found at:
    http://rosiegirldreams.com/6-sharing-saturday/sharing-saturday-plan-toys-dancing-alligator-winner/
    Nothing like reminding myself how to get great photos. So much of my own photography is home-based these days. :) Thanks!

  • Peter Davies

    July 24, 2010 10:17 am

    I love this minimalism. I want to be a minimalist like you. It's beautiful
    Thank you

  • charles binns landscape photography

    July 21, 2010 04:43 am

    There are some very good tips here, backed up by lovely images. I'll do well to remember your points when I next take my camera out.

  • Mustafa Khayat

    July 20, 2010 02:57 am

    great tips
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mustafakhayat/4793020436/

  • Mustafa Khayat

    July 20, 2010 02:54 am

  • Shariq

    July 19, 2010 08:45 pm

    Excellent tips and great pictures! Thanks

  • Leo Angelo

    July 19, 2010 05:09 pm

    Thanks for a simple but great article! I've learned a lot. And not to mention your great pictures! I love the greens and blues.

    Thumbs up!

  • Bengt

    July 19, 2010 04:09 pm

    Great article and good advice...

  • David

    July 19, 2010 01:46 pm

    Great article, definitely something I will practice on my next outing. thanks

  • Kushal

    July 18, 2010 02:55 pm

    My recent attempt to take some landscape pictures. I chose Badlands National Park in South Dakota, USA

    http://sanjaal.com/studio/345/landscape/landscape-photography-badlands-national-park-south-dakota-2010/

  • William

    July 18, 2010 06:22 am

    I this photos edited or not?

  • Pamela Ogborn

    July 17, 2010 10:36 am

    Thanks for the exceptional series---great tips and wonderful examples to illustrate your point!

  • Wedding Photography Sydney - Thina Doukas

    July 17, 2010 08:41 am

    Fantastic photography, flying to Egypt for a shoot so will have plenty of opportunity to create dynamic images. Thanks for the tips guys. So helpful. Cheers

  • florence craye

    July 17, 2010 05:31 am

    Good article, and good choice of illustrations. I love your photographs of the Palouse.

  • Saud Tushar

    July 17, 2010 05:00 am

    Very useful tips. Also liked the illustrative pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nate

    July 17, 2010 03:28 am

    Thanks for the great info! One question from me- When I take a landscape picture, a lot of times it turns out hazy. I'm not sure if this is just due to pollution around but its hard to get the brighter colors I see with my eyes to transfer into the picture. Do I need to get a certain lens filter? If anyone has any feedback on this I'd love to hear! Thanks,

  • gofree

    July 16, 2010 09:47 pm

    So awesomely short but effective!

  • Chinmoy Mukerji

    July 16, 2010 09:17 pm

    These were some really good pictures and tips. I'll remember them when I go out next with my camera. Thanks !

  • Karen Stuebing

    July 16, 2010 08:16 pm

    These are some beautiful photos and examples. I especially like the minimalistic ones which give an impression of vast space.

    Taking landscapes in the mountainous terrain of West Virginia requires you get get on top of a mountain. Which given that it is called the mountain state isn't too difficult.

    Here is a minimalistic one of a deer. Btw, I find these types of photos make great banners for web pages.

    This is one of my favorites. This view has since been destroyed by someone building McMansions on the flats.

  • MisterSimbol

    July 16, 2010 07:10 pm

    wonderful article and a great refresher for everyone into photography! Thanks!

  • mei teng

    July 16, 2010 05:41 pm

    Great post and excellent photos too. Except for #5 and #6...where the tilted horizontal lines in the background really distracted me from the overall image. I would have photographed it by keeping the horizontal lines straight.

  • Laura

    July 16, 2010 02:34 pm

    Fantastic article - and the images are just divine! It's great to have these points reinforced with such beautiful images. A very valuable read.

  • Dang Ninh Phuong

    July 16, 2010 01:47 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing, I have learn a lot from your nice pictures.

  • Richard Seeton

    July 16, 2010 11:18 am

    Gorgeous photos. The way the greens and the blues 'pop' is fantastic.

    One observation from these photos and others is that the crop seems to have a huge impact on the ability to meet the composition tips. Of the samples above, I'd guess only 6, 8 & 9 are in the traditional 4"x6" (10cmx15cm) format.

    Digital photography gives us the ability to do wonderful things with our photos - especially if they aren't going to be traditionally printed. The ability to crop, even just a little can cut out the distraction from the borders and take a photo from good to great.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeton/4501485651/' title='DSC_1006' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4020/4501485651_547fa9637b.jpg']

  • Daniel Wiltshire

    July 16, 2010 10:19 am

    Wow! Absolutely awesome images in this post. Brilliant website theme as-well. Niccee.

  • kate

    July 16, 2010 09:42 am

    The first and ninth pic remind me of when I first drove over the border from Idaho to Washington. A coyote promptly ran out in front of my car and orange lightning struck in the distance at the same time. Ominous.

  • nicolopicolo

    July 16, 2010 09:32 am

    helpful topic and great example.
    thanks for sharing.
    awesome pictures too.

  • Will McA

    July 16, 2010 08:35 am

    Great article, some good points and great photos.

    Could you explain point 7 again. I'm not sure what your example of a bad composition would be. Are you referring to the horizon line being flush with other lines such as the top of the barn roof?

  • John Mee

    July 16, 2010 08:26 am

    Thanks for these reminders No matter how long you're shooting, it makes sense to go back and look at this stuff.

  • Nando Tampubolon

    July 16, 2010 07:53 am

    i just can say 'wow' ...especially for no. 2 n 4 . I like the idea about ngeative the space to get object more attention. I'll definitely will practise what you've mentioned above, thank you for sharing those great tips to us..

  • Amar Ramesh

    July 16, 2010 07:38 am

    @iamunique127 "I took extra care not to make the horizon meet the edge of the barn."

    Imagine the green horizon line meeting the top the roof of the barn. Cutting is through is fine as long as its not cutting abruptly through human subjects.

  • Rajev Charudutta

    July 16, 2010 06:54 am

    Very beautiful pictures. Breathtaking. Nice article too. Thanks.

  • Juan Valdez

    July 16, 2010 06:52 am

    You almost lost me at 'won't strike a cord'. Should be edited to '... a chord'. Beyond that, a very good article, with time tested practical tips.

  • iamunique127

    July 16, 2010 06:27 am

    All beautiful photos and good, simple explanations.

    Try as I might, though, I could not make sense of "#7 Merge breaks a picture".

    I like the picture and it works for me but you say "I took extra care not to make the horizon meet the edge of the barn." and it appears to me that the horizon cuts through the barn.

    Please help. What am I missing?

    Thanks, Lyle

  • Martin Soler Photography

    July 16, 2010 06:00 am

    Great article. I love the pictures as they totally illustrate the point. I knew many of these "rules" but with the illustrations they stand out so clearly this article is definitely one of my favourites for future shots.
    Thanks a lot for posting!
    I took a shot that I think follows these to some degree (but not yet as good as the ones above) on a lonely path in the Chantilly forrest.
    http://martinsoler.com/2009/11/30/lonely-path-of-fall/

  • Asad C.

    July 16, 2010 05:48 am

    Great article for beginners like myself who're interesting in landscape photography.
    Fantastic photos too!

  • Eileen

    July 16, 2010 05:37 am

    Excellent comprehensive post and illustrations. The photos are beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  • Kate (Little Beach Bum)

    July 16, 2010 05:11 am

    First of all, beautiful photographs. Second of all - I just had to say that I grew up in Washington and went to Washington State University, so I made the drive back and forth from Seattle to Pullman many many times and all of these photographs bring back such great memories! so many times I thought about stopping and taking pictures - sometimes I did, but now I wish I had stopped more! Thanks for showing us your work.

  • mark

    July 16, 2010 04:56 am

    Very Good article....

  • Rob

    July 16, 2010 04:11 am

    Thanks for this
    my example of negative space

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/rahsoft/4279123235/' title='Tree at Dusk' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2695/4279123235_c4e4d241dd.jpg']

  • Adam

    July 16, 2010 04:07 am

    Excellent article with great example images!

  • Tamalematt

    July 16, 2010 04:03 am

    This is a great article, but perhaps you could have put in pictures that don't correspond to your methodology side-by-side with the 'correct' versions.

  • Chris

    July 16, 2010 02:21 am

    Very good article, the photos showed what you were trying to explain perfectly (and they are good photos too!).

  • Bill

    July 16, 2010 01:23 am

    Great backup photos. No claims at being a landscape photographer, but here a few likeables.

    Lindau Harbor: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4763324814/

    Switzerland Rhinefalls: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4725255786/

    More Rhinefalls: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4720205893/

    Brewing storm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4786824245/

  • Susie

    July 16, 2010 01:05 am

    Great article, I love the photos too. Thanks

  • Joshua Sigar

    July 15, 2010 12:10 pm

    An excellent article! Each photo is really effective in exemplifying each tip.

  • Jason Collin Photography

    July 15, 2010 11:22 am

    You covered a good range of levels with these tips, from basic (rule of thirds) to a bit more advanced (merge). I definitely have to keep myself alert for merging horizons.

    I like the train cars at the bottom image the best from your collection. Looks like a shot of a fantasy/storybook environment.

    My own most recent Florida water landscape:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/7/13/sunny-florida-at-f11-project-06-st-petersburg-florida-harbor.html

  • Jen at Cabin Fever

    July 15, 2010 09:54 am

    Great article and great photos! All very important things to remember whether you're a newbie or a professional.

    NEK Photography Blog

    Cabin Fever in Vermont

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