Composition for book design

When book author Sarah Virág commissioned a set of headshots for her new book, I had no idea how her book designer would use them. In addition, her web designers would also use the images online, and they would be looking for something different. All I knew was that designer-friendly composition was key. Sarah is a confidence coach and writer. Her book and coaching business focus on helping people to have more confidence and live their lives to the full. …

Telling Stories with Composition

Shooting families with young children? Accompanying everyone on a walk allows you to capture relaxed shots like this one, with everyone being themselves and interacting naturally. It also means you are likely to end up getting muddy… Twiggy, mud-splattered clothing is now an expected part of my appearance after an outdoor shoot. I spend a high proportion of my working day lying on my stomach, trying to get the lowest angle possible. In a portrait like this one, a low …

Golden Spiral Curve In Portraits

The Golden Spiral is a compositional tool that helps you create more high-impact portraits. Here’s how I used foreground foliage to create the spiral’s curves. The Golden Spiral is a compositional guideline that helps you place key elements of your scene within naturally powerful areas of the frame. In portraiture, that key element is typically your subject’s face or eyes. The Golden Spiral is based on an ancient design principle that found a ratio of 1:1.618 is the most visually …

Four Ways To Crop A Portrait

To crop, or not to crop? For all portraits other than full-length ones, you have to decide whereabouts on your subject’s body to place the edge of the frame. There are a few places where cropping is fine, and a few you should always avoid. The nice thing about working on location is that, more often than not, you can create numerous images out of one spot, and make them look very different simply by changing your crop. I photographed …

Who ‘Nose’ The Rules?

The ‘nose room’ rule & ‘cheekline’ rule are are rules about noses in portraits that you need to know, even if you decide to break them to create visual tension. I had just finished a shoot with Ryan and his sisters in a wood on his farm. We were walking back when I saw this caravan and thought it would look make an interesting background for a portrait. So I asked Ryan to sit on the wooden pallet – a …

Portrait Blocks & Stabilisers

Why you need wider shots to help you sell wall portraits, and how to place elements in your composition so they are either visual blocks or stabilisers. This kind of portrait works well on the wall. My subject, Emma, isn’t so close up that the picture would feel overwhelming at a larger scale. The mood of the picture is calm and relaxing, and the environment surrounding Emma is beautiful in itself. If you’re selling prints then bigger is better, so …

Placing The MD In The Middle

Positioning your subject in the middle of the frame can appear unimaginative. Here, I’ve made sure it’s a bold choice, by using elements of the environment to create a composition that’s both graphic and visually striking. Maurizio Brusadelli was the UK MD for Cadbury when I first met him. I was working with the confectionery giant to capture their part in the 2012 London Olympics. It was a lot of fun but also a full-on year, when I spent more …

Farmhouse Rule-Of-Thirds Portrait

Sometimes the best portraits start unplanned – in this case, during a shoot break. I saw a patch of light, adjusted the scene to improve the composition and used the Rule of Thirds for a visually pleasing result. My client for this shoot commissioned me to create some portraits of their two grownup children, at their beautiful farmhouse home on the top of a hill in the Chilterns. As you’d expect, we spent loads of time outside, making the most …

Foundations: Eye Contact

Having the subject look straight down the lens gives a feeling of direct eye contact when the image is later viewed. Just as in real life, eye contact is more arresting than a lack of eye contact – it captures your attention and is a form of communication in itself. However, it also demands more of the viewer, so a whole set of images containing eye contact can become tiring and repetitive. As with all the other elements of composition, …

Foundations: Background Patterns and Textures

Textured backgrounds, or those with repeating elements, can often form ideal patterns to add low-key interest behind a subject. For example, the horizontal lines of a brick wall or the vertical lines of wooden planks on a shed could both make great backgrounds. Horizontal lines tend to suit a landscape format image best while vertical lines are more powerful in a portrait image, as the background lines echo the angle of the longest edge of the image. However, patterns or …