Photo Composition Tips – Practise With A Phone
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Photo Composition Tips – Practise With A Phone

October 12, 2019

I have a lot of people ask me about
composition a lot of you guys get in touch and sound pretty good with my tech
stuff I understand my camera my lenses and all the rest of it but a little bit
stuck when it comes to finding compositions or putting them together
well it’s a lovely evening here on the PIPA Kazi which is the little lake of
pfaffikon on where I run my master class in Switzerland so I thought well why
don’t we come down here and spend a bit of time and see if we can find some
compositions and I’ll just kind of go through them with you now if you’re
coming out to photograph I would suggest bring your Kindle as I have because I
don’t know how I’m going to have to wait for some light to change we might have
quite a nice sunset I don’t know but either way I thought I’d talk you
through some compositions see what we can find now I’m not filming with a
camera person at the moment so I’m going to have to manage it all myself and what
will you guys about as we switch the camera on and off now we may or may not
get the big sunset shots the big landscape thing but before I attack my
Kindles and sit in – wait here’s a little shot that I quite like I’ve taken
it before so I do know this shot but let me just talk you through the composition
and what it is look on the wall behind me right there
right this is museum pfaffikersee this is on the wall the lake is over there
now I think there’s quite a nice little graphic shot to be had here I quite like
graphic line shots so we taught you through the shot that I’m going to show
you the composition of it the shot I’m thinking of really consists of this
shutter here or a part of it followed by a little bit of this shutter here with
the name and the plain wall the reason I’m drawn to it and like it is the fact
that these shutters are not the same height they are unequal
so the two are kind of on different heights and that kind of to me makes it
a little bit more interesting so let’s have a little look and I’ll see if I can
show you how I might shut a set up the shot first of all let’s get my
trusty camera rolling now then let’s stick it onto video so you can kind of
see what I’m looking at now here we go that’s not terribly interesting is it
but look as we sort of move to the side we’re beginning to get things square the
windows are not so interesting I’m not so sure like this little is a grey line
at the bottom what happens if we get a little closer look you see it’s getting
a bit more interesting now maybe we could zoom in a little bit
something like that you see now if I raise the camera up I can start to get
these shutters looking square on so let’s just move back a little bit you
see these are little tiny movements of me to get composition right this is in
the camera setting camera settings don’t really they help you they kind of get
you in the right place but let’s get our composition right now I’d say that’s not
a bad little composition maybe give it a bit more space just something like that
there we go now then let’s just stop the video let’s
go back and take the photo shall we so what I’ve got to do is copy what I just
did so I just got to zoom in a little tiny bit with my lens very carefully
line up my shot the edges I want to be the sort of center bars on the shutter
either size because I think they frame it up nicely they give a nice edge to
the sides of the photo so I just got to find the place I need to stand to make
that happen let’s come back a tiny bit we’re nearly
there forward a bit I want the camera to be
sort of perpendicular to the wall I want it to be straight on then we go back and
eat see a bit more eats a bit more there we go
somewhere there I think that’s looking nice and straight
there’s our composition and all I’ve got to do is take the photo
and there you go it’s a very simple graphics composition and all it involves
is a bit of moving around on your behalf of thinking through what it is you want
to achieve and seeing the shot that of course is the big deal that’s the first
thing you’ve got to do is to be able to notice something and then in your head
here and your brilliant brain in your first block of photography you need to
kind of imagine a frame around it imagine how that shot could look then
you work backwards from the shot to get your composition what sort of focal
length will you need will you need a bit of zoom you saw that we did for this and
where to stand where to hold the camera which angle to tilt it to whether it’s
up or down whether you need to raise the camera or get yourself lower and all
that kind of stuff so here we go we got one little shot let’s go see if we can
find another one while we’re waiting to see if we get the big landscape composition is about using your eyes
it’s about looking to see what’s going on around you so when we’re walking down
the path instead of like fiddling around looking in the back of the camera
reading menu settings wondering about other stuff it’s about walking around
and looking around as you go okay you’ve got to use your eyes you’ve got to
become aware of things and start imagining that picture frame in your
head and imagine that frame going around things something you could do is cut out
a little oblong frame you know out of some cardboard and just start looking
through it you know you might feel a bit of a numpty doing it but this is a great
way to start training yourself to get your photo radar going to get yourself
noticing compositions now I was just walking down this little path here and I
just kind of couldn’t help but notice these grasses and I know I’m a bit
darkness because the camera is struggling to make an exposure for both
that bright sky and for me but we’re looking straight into the Sun on the
water beyond we’ve got some sparkles and though you can’t see it in a video
camera to somebody in a boat just sitting out beyond these reeds looks
like he’s fishing actually now the shot I’m thinking of is let’s put some stuff
into the corners let’s make the corners a bit more busy because look we’ve got
high reeds here we’ve got reeds reeds reason they dip a bit here then over
here we’ve got this tree going on now can use that to frame with a little dip
going on in the middle we’ve got the Sun in the sky so we’re going to shoot
straight into the Sun let me again get my camera rocking and roll in and show
you what I mean now then put it onto video because it’ll
work better for you now then let’s just see video right this is quite hard so
I’m going to shade my eyes now look straight away there’s the Sun and I
think you can see the little guy in the boat now did you know you can move the
Sun around you can move that light path that’s sparkling on the water now
finally this way I can kind of move that light path across you see how the boat
is starting to come onto the edge of that but it’s not really what I want the
side on it up here by the edge of the tree so we’re going to move the boat to
the right let’s see where we can go now there’s a nice little dip a little
hollow going on here in front of me sort of in there we can put the Sun into that
little sort of a V that looks kind of nice
the corners are nicely filled we’ve got that tree there and that tree there and
that’s kind of creating our composition I think the thing I’m likely to like the
most though is again by moving to the left I can put the Sun behind these
reeds here I think that looked much more interesting so we have to do is try it
look what it is is a little bit of a move to the left and there we go
I kind of like that I don’t know why I like putting the Sun right behind things
so let’s take our photo let’s just stop that video stick it into
photo mode and take our shot we’re already in the right place all I’m going
to do is to line up the shot make sure the horizon straight use the camera up
and down until I get it behind those reeds tilt the camera up a bit and
there’s one shot now let’s try the one I said about putting the Sun into that dip
between the reeds let’s just kind of let me see if I can just video this for you
so we’ve got the Sun behind the reeds like that now let’s move it into that
dip over here here we go let’s just raise the
I’m up a bit that puts the Sun higher let’s bring the camera down a bit that
puts the Sun lower there we go that’s looking pretty good
there I think so stop the video pop it into photo mode and let have a little go
at that shots a shame because we’re losing our boatman a bit I don’t think I
like it quite so much but there’s our shot now if we had a really lovely blue
sky as opposed to that bit of haze and those vapour trails because we’re quite
near to an airport I think it’ll been a much more
interesting shot but nonetheless it still has merit it still has value and
it’s great composition practice it’s a way for you to try things out have a go
at different things have a play with it so there we go you’ve kind of seen a
couple of compositions I’m going to walk on down the path a little bit further
and just kind of see if we can find one of the little wooden docks that look
second to the water problem unlike the faces this can be covered with fishermen
who finished work it’s a lovely evening and they want to go catch a place all so
let’s go see if we can find the next one okay look at this we’ve got some nice
evening light you can see it on my face that is because over there we’ve got
some sunset going on let me see if I can show you hang on there we go fire up the
old camera now look over here we have got some sunset so why aren’t we
shooting the sunset why aren’t you doing that brown well to be exciting is it and
even if I try and shoot along the dock a bit look you see the dock is lining up
from here it’s going over there but the Sun is setting over there and that’s not
quite so interesting or it is causing is some amazing light you can see it on my
face and it’s happening if you can see behind me there’s a dock behind it post
little monitors if I’m pointed out for you now look we’ve got this dock going
on here there’s a couple of fishermen on the end of it and we’ve got some
mountains going on beyond the sky isn’t terribly exciting but you can just see
from these posts here that the light is superb that’s the other thing not only
if you’ve got to master your composition you also have to look at light and
understand when it looks great so my
we could possibly use some of this greenery that’s going on here we’ve got
the fishermen on the other dock and let’s see if we get a picture of them
because we’ve got some fabulous light right I’m going to move quick because I
don’t wanna lose that light now if I come over here it’s just fire at the
video so you can see what I’m thinking here we go here’s the dock I like a bit
of negative space you could frame it out like this so we’re using the trees and
the reflection you could kind of frame it up more so there’s more mountain I
think I prefer it going this way unfortunately some people have just
walked out into that dock so it’s not just fishermen we zoom in just a tad we
could have a shot something along those lines now that’s okay but it isn’t
terribly exciting is it we need something here something in this area to
lead us into the shot now watch competition is not a camera function
it’s a u function if I start to walk backwards I stop coming back towards you
guys look what’s starting to appear in the bottom of the frame yeah the end of
this dock and that’s making it a bit more interesting
now this gap here where is it there that’s quite a wide gap I want to make
this gap here smaller how do you do that it’s not hard look composition is a
function of arms and legs and hands and knees let’s just bend the knees and look
this little gap where is it and I go there that gap there it’s going
to decrease look you see that looks so much better and we got the little bits
of timber either side so that would be my composition I really rather like that
let’s just shoot the photo look at that now is Uma the end somehow match what we
had in the video take it out of it here we go
focal length or zoom and composition our best mates there we go get it straight
lovely light make sure I don’t click the ends of the dot and take the picture
that is PG dandy so if you were paying really close attention throughout this
video you may have noticed something a little odd something different to most
of the videos that I do you may notice that I took all those pictures with my
trusty old phone as opposed to my neck on on my Fuji why
would I do that why why am I being such an idiot why would I do that
it’s because composition is not a camera function it is a u function if you
something you have to manage yourself there are no settings there and I use my
phone because I can’t put settings on it many of you guys are very addicted to
what settings did you use settings are of no real value to you
because the settings that I might use or you might use in a given situation will
only work in that situation you take the same shot a few moments later with a
slightly different composition you may need totally different settings
that’s why I’ve just done this composition thing using a phone there’s
another reason too and that is you nearly always got a phone in your pocket
that means there’s no excuse for you not to practice composition at any time
wherever you are I know a lot of people think well why would I practice
photography but of course you’ve got to practice it’s like anything you want to
practice driving the car and now you make it look incredibly easy even though
you’re doing some life dependent things every time you get into it yet you’re
not even thinking about it you are thinking about going on holiday or where
you’re going to have dinner or what you’re going to do tomorrow or something
that happened at work earlier sometimes you’ll drive home and thing I don’t
remember going through there now it sounds pretty dangerous and it probably
is but nonetheless is something that human beings do so practice these things
if you found this video useful please click in a couple of lights you can
subscribe to the YouTube channel or sign up to my newsletter on my website at
photography courses beers /video whenever we post a new video I will
you’ll be one of the very first to know so you get to see it so I hope that it
was of value to you I hope you had a great time with it if you’re beginning
with your photography you’re struggling with your composition you know what to
do until next time take care see you soon

Only registered users can comment.

  1. brilliant video mike. I have often thought of making videos myself using cheap cameras as most people have a point and shoot. It's a good idea to help people who do not want to spend a fortune on professional or even expensive amerture equipment. I so much like this video of you using just your phone. I just wish I had the nerve and your talent to do YouTube videos.

  2. Was the video useful? Well yes, and as usual it was inspirational!
    Words of wisdom from a pro with a smidgin of humour. Thanks Mike

  3. Mike, you can capture a photo while your phone is taking video (there's a shutter button right next to the stop button).

    This should help, as you don't have to constantly be switching between photo and video mode on your phone.

  4. Brother…those aren't "vapor" trails. Those lines and haze are geo-engineering, otherwise known as "chemtrails". Mike, vapor trails will COMPLETELY dissipate within 5 minutes. They'll vanish entirely.
    The markings in the sky and the haze you're seeing is from geo-engineering. Those trails will fan out and continue filling the sky with the haze you see. They're infamous for doing this to our sun sets. Sheesh, it's not just sun sets…we get hammered all the time here in the USA. Beautiful blue bird sky days are turned into fog soup by mid afternoon. It's rare that we get to keep a blue sky for the entire day. I urge you to inform yourself on the raping that's being done to our air/sky. All you have to do is watch those trails. You'll either see them disappear COMPLETELY (vapor trail) or you'll see them fan out into haze (chemtrails).
    BTW, always enjoy your vids. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your insights & knowledge!

  5. Why on the earth, (Im not realy angry), but why did you walk away from the first position with the boats? You had a very beautiful subjekt there.😜

  6. This is how I started doing photography. I went out every day with my phone and practiced composition. I had to become accustomed to the limitations of my creative ability. so eventually I went out and got myself a camera. Now you can still take amazing photos on a phone just as much as a camera because essentially you are the photographer. However I was seeking more to photography other than just going out and taking loads of photos with my phone to stopping and thinking about what I am looking for. Am I an world renowned best ever photographer? No, because I am still learning. Likewise, my composition has gotten better since moving on to a camera. I already had practiced composition with my phone, I just now have a couple more things to become creative with.

  7. Allways keen to watch your videos mike must have watch them all more than once  thanks for the great info mike, this will make me think a bit harder for a better composition.

  8. "Composition is not a camera function, it is a you function" – that quote is now embedded into my brilliant brain. Great video Mike.

  9. Surprising seeing you walking around with a mobile phone, but one of your best videos, as you said: it is not the gear but you, finding the spot and doing the composition. Thanks !

  10. Hello Mike,
    One of the rules of photo composition which is almost always consigned to oblivion is extraspace. If we frame the photo in the camera viewer as we would like it to be printed and framed, then the mount will crop it or the wooden frame that we fancied won't have the good size for the photo…
    And let's face it, hanging up our photos in nice frames is a great pleasure.

  11. Mike, once again a great teaching video! And brilliant use of the smartphone in video mode to show what you're seeing and talking about what you're thinking. Love that technique you use to great effect. Also loved the slide-in "settings" panels! -;)

  12. 1. congrats on 200k subscribers. 2. Love the premise of this video! Even if people are confident in their shooting, always practice, as you said. In my view, it's a matter of being able to shoot a scene instinctively – instead of thinking "well, let me move over a little….ok, now let me do this, and then now….back up a little bit" – which is great for practice, but practice helps with confidence and speed 🙂

  13. Garry Winogrand famously said that he took photographs in order to see what the world looked like when it was photographed. I think Mike has just demonstrated that beautifully.

  14. Great video. Pro tip – next time, maybe don't show the whole of the internet the password to unlock your iPhone.

  15. Brilliant! – As ever Mike another great video, and a fantastic lesson! It takes a special talent to be able to get the message across first time, and with such ease. You make it look effortless. Thank you so much once again for all your free training videos, and also your commercial courses. You have definitely made an impact on my life, and helped send me in a much better direction. Cheers!

  16. This is one of the best videos I've found for teaching composition. You walk us through your search and your thoughts as you discover options. Lecturing is good, but there's nothing more valuable than a great example. Thanks!!!

  17. Mike Browne, the simpliest but detailed tutorials about photography on youtube…diehard follower here in Ireland. Keep up the good work Sir!

  18. Thank you Mike, I enjoyed that immensely. I am moving forward in my photography and i am starting to see things differently to how I used to. Every little tip helps, and as human beings we tend to learn from each other, or other peoples experiences.

  19. Not a bad video. But I can see how you're struggling just as much as I am when you try to hold the camera still. Ergonomically a phone remains a terrible camera – I hate it! That's why for me a compact camera that you can carry in your other pocket will never be outdated.

  20. One of your finest videos and made the whole 'composition' thing easy 👍 I always look forward to seeing a new upload from you. PS laughed at the 'settings' banner you used for each pic 😜😜

  21. Great Mike. More phone stuff is good also. Tips to on how to use a phone better would also be great. Working with the limitations.

  22. Some of my best composed images came from my old Rollei film camera.  Waist level viewfinders are wonderful to help see what your camera sees.  25 years as a photographer and I can still suffer from tunnel vision through a viewfinder more often than I like.

  23. Great video Mike! Composition before camera setting is something challenging me everytime I grab my camera, a simple Nikon d5000. What your video made me clear is that composition is a state of the mind. You see it before the shot. In doing so everything looks different when you watch them with your creativity even the most insignificant element means a lot to the photographer's eye. You see the beauty where people don't see nothing. Just a great lesson from you, Mike. Thanks.

  24. Excellent video Mike, that's a great way to illustrate composition skills without camera settings becoming a distraction. Thanks Derek

  25. Mike, thanks for another great video. They've made a real difference in my life and no doubt many others'. Please keep them coming.

  26. alright mike, yeah I take a lot of shots on my phone camera I have a professional DSLR but having your phone there is well easy.
    I have just got back from ozz and I took my pro kit but used my phone camera most of the time. it's very good for composition because as you said you need to move around. skills

  27. Thanks for the tips! I love visual composition and it's nice to see some detailed explaining.
    Is it me or… Are you the sweetest man?

  28. its nice to see someone encouraging the art of photographic practice rather than photoshop editing. great video mike and its really brought me back to basics, after getting myself lost in the techy side of it all, and I find I'm enjoying my photography more now.

  29. No no no no. Whist I agree with getting out there and practice to improve your composition skills the idea of using a phone is appalling. Instead I'd rather take my camera.

  30. But Mr. professional photographer, what camera should I buy? Is Canon better — or Nikon? What about Sony? Wow, your photos are amazing — you must have a really expensive camera! (sigh. . .)

  31. This is an excellent video Mike, I have seen many videos about composition but they don’t go into as much detail as you. Well-done and keep up the good work.

  32. again Mr Browne! super video, so simple to just go around with your phone and practice the composition with the phone. It has to be one of the hardest things in photography to get right, practice practice is the order of the day.

  33. Hi Mike thanks for another excellent video. I just picked up on your channel a couple weeks ago and watch a few each night. The D300 is a great camera. What full frame do you use. Peace.

  34. Great video. Thanks. So easy to understand. This is like having my own personal trainer. You explain it so well. Using the smartphone camera for a lesson – inspired. I am the photographer not the equipment – see, I am learning already. 👍

  35. You say use a phone to practice composition. I've found a lot of your videos apply quite well to taking photos with any camera. Light and composition in particular with a phone. You never emphasise the gear like others but the thinking which is so valuable. Always amazes me how you can snatch photos out of thin air if only one could see better

  36. Keep up the great work, Mike! This video is fantastic. Your down to earth style of explaining and demonstrating ideas through tangible examples is truly one of a kind. I really love the use of video recently to show the shot you're lining up and playing around with. It's extremely helpful to see that.

    I also love the lesson at the end about using your phone particularly because of its lack of settings. It's not about the settings, it's about you putting in the effort and moving around to make a great composition. I recently went to Europe and took a whole lot of pictures. Most of my favorite ones are from my phone, not my Nikon DSLR.

  37. Mike, your videos are great. I don't even have a professional camera yet but I love watching your videos. It's easy to understand and I love the way you deliver it.
    Looking forward to get a good camera this christmas 🙂

  38. im a novice and everytime i look at youtube for tips and advice im always drawn to your channel, your more down to earth approach makes it so easy to follow..thanks for giving your time to help others.

  39. Yes, it is such good exercise to leave the DSLR behind and work purely on composition with the phone. (Plus, how many stellar Instagram feeds have you seen, only to discover in their bio they shoot everything with a phone?)

  40. These videos you have been putting out, Mike, are of great practical value. I have created a separate playlist of these to be able to access them readily to watch again (and again) later. Very imaginatively done. Thanks.

  41. I don't know about other phones but if you have an iphone, you can take a picture while recording a video. There is a separate button. FYI :). Great video per usual!

  42. Great video! Notice the chemtrails in the shot – they are everywhere – all over the world. They are not vapour trails and you aren't close to an airport. They will be at 30000 feet. Love the work with the cellphone.

  43. Amen to everything you said at the end! Practice! Practice! Practice! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Thank you for this amazing video Sir!

  44. Nice video, nice images, made with a phone.
    There is a setting you could use when using your phone as a camera though: instead of having to tap the ‘shutter button’ on your screen, define the volume button(s) to act as shutter button.
    It’ll make your live easier…

  45. Thank you for sharing yourself and your knowledge with all of us. You are so helpful and generous with what you know and allowing us to learn from that. Big hugs brother.

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