Editor's note: My Lightroom Classic articles have moved to my new website Mastering Lightroom. Visit the store and get 20% off any ebook or ebook bundle with the code ml20 (valid until midnight October 21). Thanks for reading, Andrew.
If you want to get better at photographic composition then you need to take action. Reading books about composition is always useful. But most photographers understand that you need to put what you have learned into practice.
The problem is that without a focus you may feel uninspired. In this pandemic affected year you may also be unable to travel as much or as far as usual. So it’s helpful to have an assignment or brief to work to. That’s where the 15 day photography composition challenge comes in.
The idea is simple. I’m giving you 15 composition related challenges for you to shoot. You can work your way through the list in order or choose the ones you’d like to try.
The exercise works best if you work on one challenge at a time. Tackle each exercise on a different day. Take as long as you need to complete the challenge. You’ll need at least 15 days, but you can of course take longer.
1. Rule of thirds
We all know what the rule of thirds is – now it’s time to use it in your compositions. Don’t get too hung up on how precise your interpretation of the rule should be. Concentrate on placing the main subject away from the center of the frame but not too close to the edge.
2. Negative space
Give the subject room to breathe. Filling the frame is good, but sometimes you can step back and use empty space as part of the composition.
Many photos have a single main subject, but what happens if you have two instead? It’s time to look for pairs, like the colorful doors or orange flowers in the photos below.
4. Use shapes
Look for a subject with strong shapes, like squares, rectangles, triangles or circles. Man-made objects like buildings work best for this.
5. Limited color palette
One approach to composing with color is to use a limited color palette. Look for bright colors against a gray background. The fewer colors, the better.
6. Diagonal lines
Use diagonal lines to add excitement and interest to the composition. In the photo below the use of diagonal line helps pull your eye through the frame.
7. Repeating shapes
Find a scene with repeating shapes. If the shapes repeat themselves often enough they become a pattern.
Photograph a heavily textured subject. This type of photo often works well in black and white. If you’re a Lightroom Classic user use the Texture and Clarity sliders to bring out the textures, but don’t overdo it. You have more leeway for creative developing in black and white.
9.Use a wide aperture to create bokeh
This technique works well for portraits and close-up photography. But try thinking beyond these obvious subjects. How can you make the everyday extraordinary by using aperture to blur part of the scene? Feel free to use a Lensbaby optic if you have one.
10. Tonal contrast
Placing a light subject against a dark background gives you tonal contrast. The photo below takes this idea a step further by placing a frame within a frame.
11. Get in close with a wide-angle lens
Buildings look great with this technique, but what else can you apply it to? Moving in close and using a wide-angle lens creates a sense of intimacy that photos made with longer focal lengths lack.
12. Take a photo outdoors and exclude the horizon
This one’s all about finding interesting scenes to photograph outside. How can you make an interesting photo without including the sky?
13. Use a long focal length to compress perspective
Have some fun with this, especially if you don’t use a long focal length often. If you don’t have a telephoto lens use the longest focal length you have. The 55mm end of an 18-55mm zoom is long enough to compress perspective.
Man-made objects are most likely to give you symmetry. Can you find a way to break the symmetry to make the composition more interesting?
15. Divide the frame in two
Find a creative way to divide the frame in two. It’s almost like creating two photos in one.