Carving Out Quiet for Composition Work / by Andrea Moffatt

Have you arrived at that point in your photography journey where you find yourself confident in your technical skills, but not consistently happy with your artistic skills? Good composition is a skill you must strengthen by daily practice. But it can be stressful to practice it during a paid photo session or when you are in a familiar, cluttered environment, such as your house. 

In the past, I've recommended photo walks for relaxation, breaking out of a rut, and new learning. (Yes- I really like photo walks!) Now, I'm going to suggest another reason to take your camera and hit the road. 

Carve Out Quiet Time for Your Composition Work 

Extricating yourself from the clutter and everyday-ness of your own home can allow you to see more clearly. This change of scenery and absence of household responsibilities is freeing. I recently went on a walk around Twin Lakes park with my sidekick. He loves throwing pebbles in the water and finding nature to add to his collection as we walk, so he stayed happy while I contentedly clicked away. 

The quiet gave me time to be thoughtful and to fix what didn't compositionally work. For example, here is my first attempt at this image of him squatting by the water:

There are two things I don't like about that first attempt. First, I cut off his foot. Perhaps a little higher would've worked, but my crop was awkward. And second, that little reflection of trees in the top left corner draws my eye away from the otherwise perfect reflection of the sky in the water. Had I shot the reflection of trees the whole way along the top, it might've worked well. But just a tiny piece of it distracts. 

My fix:


Because he spent so much time at the edge of the water, I had time to complete all these thoughts AND act on them before chasing him to the next thing. In this next series, I tried composing the shot with the entire tree reflection at the top.

And, the benefit of a long, repetitive walk is that you usually have more than one attempt at the shot. Here are two attempts at a silhouette (along the trail in different spots). 

Whether you aren't yet shooting with consistently strong composition or you are a professional just trying to continually improve, carving out some quiet time to hone your skills is imperative. And if you can't find that quiet at home - who among us can? - I recommend a quiet little road trip. Bon voyage!