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Planning your Photographic Composition

Most digital camera users fit somewhere on a spectrum between two extremes when it comes to taking planning their digital images.

1. The Snap Happy Photographer – we’ve all see these digital camera users (and most of us are guilty of it ourselves also). Planning their images extends to switching on the camera, holding it at arms length on the most obscure angle possible and pressing the shutter release at a random over and over again with little thought to their subject’s position within the frame.

The results at the end of the day from these photographers are an unpredictable roller-coaster ride between some wonderfully creative shots which they claim they meant (but really were just lucky with) and the bizarre (out of focus shots of ear).

2. The Over Planner – we’ve all posed for this type of photographer at one time or another. They spend what seems like hours getting you positioned just right (so that the sun will bounce off the waterfall behind us just right) and then spend long slow minutes staring into their view finder and playing with the controls on their digital camera to ensure the exposure is just right.

Once the shutter is released you relax and try to move on only to find that the first shot was a ‘test shot’ and that they need to go through the whole process again because the sun had moved since they positioned you and the glare on the waterfall made your face invisible.

Ok – I’m talking in extremes and I’m making these two types of photographers sound almost evil – but the fact of the matter is that the best photographers that I know take the best of both scenarios.

They have a unique ability to be creative, experimental and spontaneous like our happy snapper but they also think before they shoot in order to make the shots that they take count.

My advice to new photographers is to have fun and shoot lots of frames – but also to take their time and consider the photos that they are shooting BEFORE they go into happy snapping mode.

Ask yourself some of the following questions quickly before taking a shot and you might just find the results are a step up in quality than if you’d just randomly filled your camera with images:

• What is the subject of this photo?
• Is there more than one subject? If so would it be better to capture them with multiple shots?
• What is the mood of the moment?
• What is going on in the background of this shot?
• Do I have time to pose my subject (and is it appropriate to do so) or do I need to shoot fast?
• Is the place I’m shooting in light or dark?
• Who else is taking photos of this subject? What angles are they taking shots from (sometimes they can give you ideas of what shots to take and sometimes they can give you hints as to what images EVERYONE is taking and inspire you to do something different)?
• Is my subject moving or still?
• Are there any patterns in the photo that I could work with?By no means are these the only questions to ask but they are some good starting points which will help you to make smart decisions about how to capture your subject.

Lastly – asking questions like this might sound terribly mundane and uncreative. ‘Doesn’t it break the moment and turn you into one of those over planning types?’ you might ask.

My response to this is that taking too much time can definitely kill the creative process and you need to assess the moment to see whether it’s appropriate to take your time shooting or not – but even in the moment when you have to shoot at a split second it is handy to have thought ahead a little and assessed the situation you’re in.

My most recent example of this was when I was at a tennis tournament recently and shooting court-side. One might think that in a moment like this there is no time to plan – the game is on and you only have a split second to shoot – however my best shots were the results of me asking myself ALOT of questions and thinking ahead of the possible scenarios for shots that I might be presented with.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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