Anyone can press a button and snap a photo, but it takes thought when composing a stunning photo. While some people say it takes a real "eye" to capture a beautiful image, really anyone can get there with some practice and some patience.
1. Understand composition: Before you even take the photo, understand that photography is a work of art. Even portraiture doesn't have to be centered. Consider the background, other objects in the foreground, anything else around before hitting the shutter button. Your picture has the ability to tell a story, to capture a moment in time. Don't forget the power that one photo can have.
2. Follow the lines: In Renaissance art, one of the biggest innovations was perspective. Subtle lines in the painting draws the viewer into the subject naturally. Well, the same rule can hold true for photographs today. Pay attention to the lines around you, like roads, paths, sunlight, either straight or diagonal. They create a natural focal point and it is often easier to compose photos This works well especially for landscape photography.
3. Framing: I've noted this in previous tips, but finding a frame often strengthens a photo. This concerns outdoor photos primarily, but it can be done indoors as well (perhaps a bookcase, doorway, etc.) Outdoors, look for a bridge, tree branch or even use the horizon as a way of naturally framing your image. It creates a focal point for the viewer, but it also fills up extra space that can be distracting or boring (like a blank sky).
4. Avoid centering: The most common way people (namely tourists) take photos is by pointing their camera straight at their subject and that is it: a centered object. Sometimes this works, like when the subject takes the viewer by surprise or perhaps it's shot in macro mode. But this look is old. Try off-centering your subjects as much as possible, still framing it in a nice manner, but not just shooting something for the sake of taking a picture.
5. Rule of Thirds: One way of avoiding centering is adhering to the "rule of thirds." This is a traditional photography rule that an image is divided equally into thirds (nine parts) for the photographer to imagine when looking at a subject through the viewfinder. In practice of this rule, the subject is usually off-centered, either in a corner of four of the imaginary boxes, off to the side divided among six boxes, etc. While it might sound boring since its "traditional," there is a reason it has stood the test of time: it works. It gives the photo a little more thought and makes the subject less awkward in the center.
How do you like to compose your photos? Any additional tips?