Photo Composition for Better Photography
Notes from the Web



People add immediate interest to a picture. Why? Because...

  • People are interested in other people first and foremost.
  • People provide context for the scene
  • People offer us their stories; i.e., their culture, lives, and experience
  • People can set the scene for action
  • People in the scene allow us to experience the scene vicariously.
  • People provide a reference for determining object sizes in the scene.
  • People make photographs more publishable



I have too many snapshots where I asked the person(s) to pose for the camera and say cheese. This works for group photos, but doesn't work well for very small groups or singles. Here are some suggestions

  • Start by having the person look any where but at the camera. This can provoke interest by causing us to ask "what's he doing?".
  • Ask for poses that suggest motion such as climbing stairs, leaning, walking, twisting, or any other simulated motion.
  • Next, have them actually do something in situ - eating, sitting, reading, talking, laughing, playing - so that they appear natural.
  • For groups, encourage a arrangement the explains the group or creates an atmosphere of intimacy.
  • If need be, think like a movie director and "direct" your conscripts. Better, ask them for ideas, and see where they take you.
  • Ask them to wear bight and colorful clothes. Silly as this sounds, it really does works.

In short, be creative and use your imagination; just don't have them stand there, stiff and erect.



Are we missing feet, hands, or even heads? Did the frame lop off needed body parts? Could be a problem.

For example, its better to crop at the shoulder than the elbow or the wrist. Better to cut at the waist than the knees. Loosing a head is never acceptable.

Overcoming cutoff includes zooming out, drawing the group together, or drawing the extremity closer to the torso. Another strategy is to zoom in to focus on some section of the person or body to create an entirely different effect.



  • Head room - leave room above the subject(s) head
  • Nose room - leave space in front of the face (in profile) to prevent suffocation
  • Room to Move - leave space in front of moving objects so that they can "move" into that space.



There is an optimum distance from the camera for people to stand - around 15 to 20 feet. This distance will provide the proper size and scale for the picture.