In the last year I’ve grown my Instagram account from 1k to over 45k, which is partly due to the fact that I’ve gotten featured by Instagram 5 times but also the result of a lot of experimenting and just being quite obsessed with taking photos. In the process I’ve learned quite a lot about composition and visual storytelling, and I thought I’d share these tips with you :)
Composition basically means how different elements are placed in relation to each other and how you choose to crop and frame a scene. The world can look so different though the lens, and that’s part of the magic that keeps me endlessly fascinated by the whole process.
All photos have one thing in common: they all tell a story. The task of the photographer is to make sure that that story is readable and captivating to the viewer.
So here it goes, my top 3 composition tips to help you become a better storyteller and photographer.
Do to your photos what Coco Chanel did to fashion: simplify it.
It´s a very human thing to start over complicating things and adding all kinds of unnecessary stuff when we feel a bit insecure and not sure about what we’re actually trying to do (which is usually the case when we’re being creative :)).
In the process of composing a photo it´s good to add all kinds of stuff and see what works, but when in doubt less is always more. When you start putting in too much stuff it just becomes unfocused and confusing. The most important thing is to recognise what the main element in the photo is and then build everything around to support it.
Quality over quantity, that is usually what tends to pay off in the end.
2. SHOW CONTEXT
This one is almost like my personal mantra that I always think about when creating photos: giving the situation context.
The fundamental questions to answer in any sort of storytelling are: Who? What? Where? When? and Why?
Even though the answers don´t have to be super concrete and obvious in a photo, it seems that having that human touch with a glimpse of a hand or foot in the frame always resonates stronger with people.
If I´m taking a photo of a flatlay on a table I also often tend to show a bit of the floor or the surroundings to give it more depth and context. That way the viewer gets a sense of location and can imagine how the rest of the room looks like, plus it also gives more stuff to look at in the picture which is key if you want them to stick around longer ;)
3. MAKE IT POP
When we first see a photo on Instagram it's often a tiny thumbnail size, so make sure you think about using contrasts and are very intentional with the colors you choose in your photo.
I´ve noticed that a white or light background tends to be quite nice to work with since it's easy to get that contrast you want between your background and the things that are in the photo. Or if you take a photo out aganst a dark green forest it't usually a good idea to think about wearing clothes that are in a contrasting color, like a white dress (my forever number one go-to thing) or a why not throw on a yellow raincoat?
Think about other ways you can help your motifs pop in the photo, for example by placing everything close to a window where you get nice and dramatic shadows or by adding a strong color that creates a contrast with the background.
A good test is to leave your photo for a couple of hours and come back to it, how quick are you able to see what is going on in the photo just at a glance?