I’ve seen photographers make lots of mistakes when it comes to composition. That’s not a criticism – we all get things wrong from time to time. But recognizing mistakes and putting them right is a key part of improving your composition skills. In that spirit then, here are the most common composition mistakes and errors that I’ve seen photographers make.
Learning the rule of thirds – and nothing else
The rule of thirds is basic composition theory and it’s important to understand it. But the mistake some photographers make is never trying to learn anything else about composition.
For example, take a look at the photo below. The tree is located on an intersection created by dividing the frame into three, according to the rule of thirds.
But is the rule of thirds the only principle of composition used in this photo? No, it isn’t. Let’s look at the other factors.
- There is negative space around the tree. It gives the subject room to breathe and creates a sense of space.
- The tree is the main focal point and there is nothing to compete with it.
- The hills in the background are faded due to the weather conditions (it was raining when I made the photo), adding a sense of depth.
- I used a long exposure (125 seconds) to blur the water and the leaves of the tree, adding a sense of motion or time passing to the photo.
- I converted the photo to black and white to create drama.
As you can see there’s much more happening in this photo, from the point of view of composition, than simply placing the tree on a third. Once you understand how these ideas work you can use them in other photos and improve your composition skills at the same time.