Think About Composition With Your Photography

May 28, 2011

in DIY Photography Tips, Photography Creative Team, Photography Tutorials, Susan Keller

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Written by: Susan Keller from Susan Keller Photography

At the end of last year, my husband decided we needed a point & shoot camera. I, never being one to turn down any photographic-equipment purchase (ha!), immediately began to research different options and to find a p&s that would still allow me to fiddle with settings manually. My engineer-husband, on the other hand, was gunning for a p&s that was shatter-proof, water-proof, dust-proof, and had video capability. Since there was no such camera that fulfilled both our wish-lists that was in our price range, the hubs got the camera he wanted. In the color (bright orange) *I* wanted. Cause that’s how we roll. 😉

So, here I am, in possession of a p&s camera that does NOT allow me to fiddle with any settings manually. The photograph it takes is the photograph it takes. Which can be frustrating. Or totally liberating. I’ve decided that it’s completely liberating. It frees me NOT to think about any technical detail. It frees me to think entirely about composition while not being distracted by apertures, shutter speed or ISO.

On the particular day in the photos below, I was stuck in the truck with my littlest guy who had fallen asleep. The rest of my Dudes were out doing their thing. For my amusement, and to pass time, I decided to see how many differently composed shots I could take of my precious sleeping boy, all while I remained in my seat. Below are the results …

I love this little composition exercise that I do. Without very intentionally thinking about composition and different ways of shooting an image, I don’t think I would have come up with this image that I adore:

This year I’ve promised myself that I will experiment and chase hard after excellent composition skills. And I encourage you to do the same.

Susan Keller is an Orange County Baby, Child & Family Photographer

I totally love a great roadtrip adventure with my dudes, or a cozy afternoon curled up with a good book. “Reality” tv totally sucks me in. I prefer my chocolate to be semi-sweet and my Diet Coke to have a squirt of root beer in it. Photography makes my heart sing and waterskiing leaves me sore & limping but deeply satisfied.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

crystal April 14, 2013

Agree with molly and laura. The excuse of this is a rental and low speed low traffic area is scary fo be honest. Most accidents occur in low speed low traffic areas.

This is a wonderful topic and idea but I am shocked at the execution. If the same subject was a newborn in an unsafe pose or setting it would be just as unacceptable. I think more thought needs to be put into this topic. I love your blog but I am shocked.


Molly April 14, 2013

Laura, thank you for posting that! I’m not a child safety seat technician, but I do take carseat safety very seriously. This is a very important point to make, folks, please don’t gloss over it or think she’s coming off as rude. Children DIE when they’re buckled in this way.


Omar Lodhi July 14, 2012

Very interesting. One art student once told me that they had an assignment where they had to spend one day inside a bathroom and take pictures all day. The concept is that once you are limited to one area, you start expanding your vision.


vik June 10, 2011

laura… get over yourself.. I am sure the last thing she would want is to harm her child..You should worry about your own children… or Ronald Mcdonald…


Skeller June 2, 2011

Wynett – we got the Panasonic Lumix TS2.


Wynett May 31, 2011

Love the photos. What camera did you end up with?


keri May 30, 2011

Love my Lumix!
I stick it in my purse or pocket ALWAYS!


Wendhy Jeffers May 29, 2011

Thanks for sharing. What a great exercise! I’ll have to try that 🙂


Laura May 29, 2011

Thank you for the helpful tips. Composition is definitely a huge factor for great photography that can often be overlooked.


Lori May 29, 2011

@Laura – I thought the same thing! Thankfully just a temporary situation in a rental. I enjoyed the article and ideas on composition/


Simple Girl May 28, 2011

This is such a great exercise! I taught an interim middle school photography class in April and this would be a perfect skill builder for next year! I used several of your tutorials this year and really appreciate your fresh approach. It has helped me immensely!

I’m also in the market for a new point and shoot, so thanks for the tips!


Hannah May 28, 2011

For a p&s I have the Lumix DMC FZ 35. I actually like it a lot. There is a manual mode, and the shutter speed has a great long time of 60 seconds, but only comes to a 1/200 for the shortest speed. Unfortunately, the aperture only goes to 8. But it is great, and if you’re looking for a good point and shoot, that is it. (They make the F40 now. Way better zoom.)


Skeller May 28, 2011

Heather – our cars don’t actually look this clean. ever. this truck was actually a rental.
🙂 but gosh, it would be nice to have such a clean car on a daily basis!! I’m just not that disciplined.

Laura – I know this wasn’t an ideal set-up. We were away from home and renting a car in a not-high-traffic location, so we made do. I appreciate your concern.


Christina May 28, 2011

With all due respect Laura (and while I know you’re right technically) I’m sure that she is safe with her child. Your comment came off sounding quite arrogant and condemning instead of what I’m hoping you intended which is to be helpful. Maybe choose a less harsh way of expressing your “concern for this child’s safety” that doesn’t come off sounding quite so judgmental.
It’s all in the delivery dear.


Laura May 28, 2011

Yikes!!! I am a child passenger safety technician. The child featured in these shots needs to use a booster seat. The seat belt across his neck and soft abdomen would result in serious internal injuries – life threatening – in a crash.

Children are not safe to sit in a seatbelt alone until they can pass the 5 step test. Just posting out of concern for this child’s safety.


Heather May 28, 2011

Great idea and I plan to do this exercise. Thank YOU! – but my biggest question for you is how do you keep your car so stinkin’ clean with kids?!? 🙂


rachel May 28, 2011

Never thought of it that way- what a great way to approach those limitations with some creativity!


Skeller May 28, 2011

Rachel – it’s a good little camera. again, it was my husband’s pick, not mine (I would have gotten a p&s with some manual controls), and chosen for its underwater & video capabilities. we’ve had a lot of fun with it. LOVE the video. and it’s simple enough for even my youngest son to use happily.

Tracy – you are the QUEEN of p&s!!! you could teach us all a thing or two about great p&s composition!!


Life with Kaishon May 28, 2011

This was an excellent post! thanks for sharing Susan. LOVE it!


Kathy- KDM Photography May 28, 2011

WOW~ I love this exercise! I will have to try it myself!!


Tracy P. May 28, 2011

It seems like I spent a couple years doing that, Susan. 😉 But it’s good to have permission to take a break and do it again. It’s why I took my p&s to Disney. Love these. And still love my Lumix.


Emily May 28, 2011

Totally awesome post. Yes, using tools with limited capabilities makes us stretch our muscles. I think the “ease” of beauty available to us in digital dslr is making a lot of people crave the “work.” Thus, I’ve see so many amazing dslr photogs re-learning film and other types of cameras. It’s also part of what makes camera phones (and iphones in particular) so popular, I think. Great shot you captured. I also like the b&w one with both of you in the photo. It reminds me of I Love Lucy for some reason. Maybe it’s your eyeball expression!


Rachel May 28, 2011

Susan- How do you like that Lumix? We just bought a Lumix so we’d have a waterproof camera for the beach/pool.


Wendi May 28, 2011

Wonderful tips! I agree, sometimes it is very nice to take the pressure off to have all the right settings and get the perfect shot… 😉


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