What composition elements in a photograph make for a winner? There are a number of contributing factors, so let’s have a discussion on a few of them.
It has been said that the moment you look at a photograph, you should immediately know what the subject of the photo is. If it is taking you ten or twenty seconds to decide what the subject of the photograph actually is, then there is a definite problem. So how do we make the subject jump out at you so that you immediately know what it is?
One thing we can do is to have the subject occupy most of the photographic frame, that pretty much eliminates any competition quickly! Don’t laugh, there are times when this is an appropriate method of making the subject stand out. In any case, we want to subdue the significance of the background from the subject, especially in photography of any living person or animal. By shooting with a large aperture, (small f stop), combined with a long focal distance, (an extended zoom), will create a bokeh or blurred background. Lighting the subject through natural light, flash, artificial light, or even the use of reflectors will bring attention to the subject. If you are able to shoot in the evening or early morning when the daylight is low and use a speedlite, (flash), to increase the exposure of the subject. Combining these two techniques of blurring the background and also underexposing the background through illumination of the subject will definitely make you subject pop right out at you.
Another technique is the use of breaking linear background lines. An example of this would be the horizontal lines created in a farmer’s field by fence lines and possibly the rows of plants in the field being intersected by a non-linear subject like a person, horse, or a tractor. Another example would be at sea with the waves creating horizontal lines across the photo and a surfer or a boat interrupting those horizontal lines created by the waves.
Try not to center your subject, this is what all untrained photographers try to do. Rather try to use the rule of thirds, by placing your subject either 1/3 or 2/3 across the photo instead of ½ way across it.