7 Composition Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make

There are few things that can make or break a photograph like composition. If you organize a brilliant composition of a scene, you could turn an average photo into something special. However, conversely, if your composition is poor, it can undo a lot of hard work.

Composition is a tricky topic. Unlike some of the craft of photography, it far predates the camera and has been obsessed over for hundreds of years. It's a deep and nuanced topic and there are a lot of ways you can fall short of the mark. As a result, many beginners will either largely ignore composition or they will try to adhere to the many "rules", and both have the power to damage your final image. In this video, the superb landscape photographer, Nigel Danson, walks you through seven common composition mistakes beginners often make.

There is a lot I want to say on this topic, to the point where it warrants an article of its own, but there is an overriding issue I see and that I fell foul of when I first started. Rather than focusing on the rules of composition, put the time into understanding why the rules are the way they are. That is, why do they want elements in certain places? When you get an understanding of what compositional rules and suggestions are trying to achieve, you can shed the rigidity of them and work towards the ultimate goal of people enjoying your work.

What compositional mistake did you make the most as a beginner?

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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1 Comment

Terrific video! Nigel is so comprehensive and effective in his explanations of mistakes we tend to make. For me the best tip was the one at the very end: take time. I love travel photography, and sometimes I don't often have the luxury of having time to take in a scene. It was good to hear Nigel addressing that issue in regards to his trip to Antarctica.