I am a huge fan of the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies. They were very popular in the 2000s and their songs were creative, fun and edgy. They also came up with a children’s album called Snacktime and it was a blockbuster hit. Now you must be wondering what a music band has to do with photography but just bear (pun intended!) with me and keep reading on.

One of the songs on the kid’s album is called “Crazy ABC’s” and it was not the traditional alphabet song. In fact, the whole song used unique and different words that begin with the traditional letters of the alphabet. Are you still with me here? At the end of the song, the lead singer (Ed) encourages kids to think outside the box when it comes to learning. Everyones knows the typical A, B and C words like Apple, Cat, and Ball. But think outside the box and see what a wonderful world it opens up.

Thi is how that example relates to photography. We all know the basic composition techniques – the rule of thirds, center focus, fill the frame, etc. How about we change things up and look at some of the atypical composition techniques – after all, it really is such a wonderful world out there, why see it from a boring frame of reference!! Let’s get creative.

#1 Look for reflections

Reflections don’t always have to be done with water. Reflections on water are probably the easiest thing to do if you want to get creative. But following the theme of changing things up, try other surfaces as well. Actually, any reflective surface can be used to add an element of creativity to your frame.

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Nothing wrong with the typical reflection in water shot…the fact that I get to see the snow-capped Himalayas twice over was enough to get me to do the typical/traditional shot.

Karthika Gupta Photography - Memorable Jaunts DPS Article-Creative Composition Techniques-reflection 1

But pushing beyond the boundaries of typical and photographing this lovely couple’s first look on their wedding day, with an added reflection in the glass takes it to another level.

#2 Look for symmetry

Just like in point number one above, symmetry does not necessarily mean centered composition of the subject. As long as you can draw a virtual line across the frame and have two exact replicas of the image, symmetry is achieved. Try to think of creative ways to achieve symmetry.

food - 6 Creative Composition Techniques to Boost Your Images

Food is one of those subjects that lends itself to a multitude of different composition techniques. By isolating these appetizers (don’t they look absolutely delicious) in a central composition, I was able to create symmetry horizontally, vertically and maybe even diagonally! Again, think outside the box.

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One of my favorite clients from a few years ago…here the symmetry is implied – parents on one end of the spectrum and kids on the other.

#3 Use of negative space

I love the use of negative space to add so much more to an image without any additional weight of other subjects. I am always thinking of ways to use negative space to add that extra special “oomph” factor to my images.

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This little Italian car screamed for my full attention – using negative space with a wall exactly the same color as the car was a little different but this image is all about that car and nothing else!

The Vatican - 6 Creative Composition Techniques to Boost Your Images

Negative space can be used for any genre of photography – people, things, and even places. The Vatican deserves everyone’s undivided attention, there’s no doubt about that!

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My lovely model from an editorial shoot last year. She totally owned that shoot and this image shows her strength, tenacity, and attitude – the only thing in this image is her, simplified by the use of negative space.

#4 Multiple exposures

This is by far one of my favorite ways to add a little creativity to my images. Don’t feel you need to be limited by using only two exposures in the case of multiple exposures. This works great for three or even four exposures and can be done in-camera as well as in post-processing.

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A typical double exposure using a textured image and a human element.

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But why stop at two exposures? Here I used three exposures to showcase the active, multi-faceted mind of a creative. A lot of thoughts race through our minds at any given point in time – here is a creative way of documenting that!

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Another three exposure frame – an extension of being creative with your composition.

#5 Slow down your shutter speed

By having a long exposure (slowing your shutter speed) you can add some creativity to your shots. Traditionally we see this with waterfalls or flowing water shots. But try and do this with other subject matter as well. Sometimes that intentional blur can be used just as a creative expression, or to create abstract art in your images.

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This was actually taken from a car as we were driving along a California highway. The car was too fast for me to get any sort of sunset shot so I decided to embrace the movement and create an abstract version of what I was seeing.

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Here motion blur or slow shutter speed was much more intentional. I was camping on the beach along the Oregon coast as the fog was just rolling in and people were walking back to their tents. By slowing the shutter, the waves took on this milky look and the people magically faded away from the shot. For this kind of shot, I used a tripod to make sure the sea stacks were sharp.

#6 Creative framing

Try and incorporate frame within a frame within a frame or any combination of that in your photos to add a fun element and lead the viewer into where you want them to focus their attention.

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My lovely client backlit and framed within the doorway. The sun was too bright behind her and the rest of the room was dark – a perfect recipe for taking a step back and framing the dark against the bright.

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Here the happy couple is being framed by the staircase and steps in a more subtle way. The eye is being led down and around the sides of the railing leading the viewer into the bottom of the frame where the couple is taking a moment to be with each other.

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This is one of my favorite images of my kids…one of the few times that big sister is being nice to her little brother! The leaves along with the tree frame them, directing your eyes to the center of the frame where they are interacting.


I hope these tips encourage you to think differently when it comes to photographic composition. Sure you likely know the tried and true rules – things that you know will work when all else fails. But you know what? Embrace that failure to grow creatively.

Experiment and try some of these creative composition techniques. In fact, take a chance and maybe try a couple of them together. Who knows what might happen, but at least you will feel like you explored outside your comfort zone. And the best part is that these tips work well for almost any genre of photography. So get out there and create some magic.

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