The 15 Day Photography Composition Challenge

The 15 Day Photography Composition Challenge

Editor's note: This month only – take the next step on your creative journey and enroll in the Finding your Creative Voice 2024 course for just $25! Click here to learn more. 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.

rule of thirds

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.

negative space

3. Pairs

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.

pairs in photographic composition

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.

shapes in photographic composition

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.

Limited color palette

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.

Diagonal lines

7. Repeating shapes

Find a scene with repeating shapes. If the shapes repeat themselves often enough they become a pattern.

Repeating shapes

8. Texture

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.

Texture in photographic composition

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.

Bokeh and wide apertures

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.

Tonal contrast

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.

Wide-angle lenses

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?

Exclude the sky from the composition

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.

Compress perspective with telephoto lenses

14. Symmetry

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?

Symmetry in photographic composition

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.

Dividing the frame

Further reading

Finding Your Creative Voice course

Introducing Lightroom Classic ebookThanks for reading. You can get more great articles and tips about photography in my popular Mastering Photography email newsletter. Join today and I’ll send you 47 PhotoTips cards and my ebook Introducing Lightroom Classic . Over 30,000 photographers subscribe. Enter your email now and join us.

Composition ebooks

About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer with a camera. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He lives in south Devon in the UK and is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

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