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Composition is the single biggest element that determines whether or not your photograph is interesting. I cheat, I start by travelling to really interesting places, so my subject matter helps a lot. However, even with good subject matter, if you don't set the scene well, you may turn an interesting subject into a boring shot.

Do not center your subject matter
The first rule of thumb, centering is bad! Centering the subject matter in an image is often the intuitive way to frame a photograph, but it leads to non optimal results.


Observe the shot of the Grand Canyon with the moon centered. Certainly its not a horrible shot, but it would have been more interesting with the moon on either the left or right side of the photograph. In contrast, the photograph of the silhouetted palm tree during a majestic sunset in Thailand is enhanced by placing the tree off-center in the image, the composition becomes more interesting.

Add a Little Spice

Be creative. Sometimes taking a traditional shot of a well photographed subject matter can be a little boring. This is especially true if you do not get great lighting as we did when we visited the Great Wall of China. However, even a shot like the great redwoods in the USA can be a bit mundane without something added to the foreground. While you may not carry a wedding dress with you like my wife and I do for our One Dress, One Woman, One World project, be creative. It's the key to being a successful photographer.

China Great Wall, One Dress, One Woman, One WorldEarland Falls, Routeburn Trek, One Dress, One Woman, One World Redwood Forest One Dress One Woman One World

Use diagonal entry points
Interesting composition can also be accomplished by composing the photograph so that your subject matter enters the image in an interesting manner. One simple trick is to use a diagonal entry point.

Observe the image on the left of a seemingly boring image of a glacier cutting through the mountainside on the trek up to the Everest Base Camp. By using a diagonal entry of the glacier and showing the mountains and sky to give the glacier some relative perspective, the image jumps to life.

Similarly, if one centers a race walker in the middle of the image, there is not a great deal of interest to the photograph. However, by using the arm as a diagonal entry point, the image is not only a bit off centered, but far more interesting.

While the contrasting photo is not unappealing, it lacks a bit of interest. Observe the diagonal entry of the river leading the eye up to the mountain.

Cropping to the rescue
Sometimes you may not take the perfect image right out of the camera. If you have enough detail in the image and are handy with a program like Adobe Photoshop, you may crop an image down to achieve a better composition. Just be aware the more you crop, the less resolution the image will have and therefore you will ultimately limit the maximum size you can print your photo.