Photo Composition for Better Photography
Notes from the Web



The depth of your scene can be divided into layers, starting with the foreground and ending with the extreme background. There may or may not be intervening layers, but many scenes do have them. For example, imagine a woman (foreground), house (middle ground), and hillside (background), all three related by some common theme such as a storm..

There may or may not be something of interest in each layer. When there is, those "layers" may fit together cooperatively. More often than not, they don't. In fact, they may compete for the viewers attention. Worse, the layers may merge obscuring the intended subject.. It just depends.



In a simple two-layer scene, the subject can either be helped or hindered by the "other" non-subject layer. Consider these examples:

  • A wide-angle shot, a medium sized foreground object is offset by the landscape in the background.
  • A standard 50-100mm angle shot, the subject in the foreground competes with a busy background.

In the first instance, the foreground object makes the composition. In the second, the background breaks the composition.


Simple is best

In most situations, you want a simple background so that it does not detract from the subject. Isolate the subject and avoid mergers by:

  • Zooming in
  • Repositioning the subject or camera
  • Using selective focus to blur the background

However, if you need a challenge, try experimenting with multi-layer compositions.


Here's a quote (I forget from where)

"The wide-angle is the most versatile and challenging lens in your repertoire. It allows you to create a much richer, deeper composition, accentuating, dramatizing and cinemascoping your image. You can fit several stories within one frame, one in the foreground, another in the rear. You get more animation and depth, creating a dimensionality that lifts your picture out of the flat-earth society."