1. What if I got higher or lower? Eye level is just too easy, and often boring. Consider sitting or stretching, lying down or climbing on top of something. Or maybe even just a subtle shift of a few inches above your normal viewpoint. Every little perspective change has the potential to dramatically improve your image.
2. What if I moved left or right? The same idea holds true with lateral movement as well. Often when you move to the side of your subject it’s amazing just how different the entire scene often appears. I’ve noticed how dramatically different things look from 90 degrees, so I often shoot from there just to make sure I’m not missing the ideal angle.
4. Is the horizon level? I’m horrible at creating straight and level photographs when I handhold my camera. Maybe that’s why I like tripods so much; I can study the frame. I’d be well served with every exposure to tilt a little to the left. Even if you’re not as consistently off as I am, it never hurts to double-check your horizons. It’s all too easy to create a crooked picture.
5. Are the edges clean and clutter free? For the longest time I took pictures concentrating solely on the subject and forgetting all about the background. I discovered that all sorts of strange things I didn’t intend to be in the picture found their way into the scene—especially at the edges. Half a head, a corner of a building... These are the things that clutter compositions and keep pictures from being graphically clean and simple.
7. If the primary subject—a person in a portrait, for example—was removed from this image, would the scene still be graphically interesting? Portrait photographer Seth Resnick told me that several years ago, and it’s really stayed with me. Seth found that if he composed images that looked great even if the subject walked out of frame, he was on his way to a wonderful shot. I find that the same principal holds true no matter what you’re photographing. The context should always be graphically great. If it isn’t, simplify, move in closer, eliminate elements or utilize any of these other tips to improve your composition. Then click the shutter.