Leave out all the technicalities involved in taking a photograph, and it’s composition that makes or breaks an image. No matter how technically complex your photo may be, if the composition isn’t good, the photo is a failure.


Doing a background check on the model for any criminal records might be a good idea, but that’s not what we’re concerned about here. During photo shoots, be wary of the elements that are behind the model or in the model’s surroundings that can intersect with the model’s face and body. These are some things to look out for:

  • lines going through the subject that appear to be splitting the subject
  • branches, wires, or poles coming out of the subject’s head
  • horizon going through the subject’s neck or head
That poor girl. How hard was it to get that pole to come out of her head?


If the subject is facing in a direction without much space in the frame, the image seems out of balance; it might feel suffocating and uneasy. The edge of the frame can act as a barrier between the wall and the surrounding of the image.

Fix this issue by asking the model to turn the other way or recompose so the model is facing the edge of the frame with more space.

Notice the photo on the right, gives the model some room to breathe. That makes the photo much more pleasing as well.


You must play with perspective! Get down on your knees, move to one side, lay down, or get yourself to a higher point of view. Many of us get so worried about finding a subject that we forget to think about how we’re going to photograph it. If you shoot a subject straight on, you’ll record its appearance, but you may fail to capture any context or atmosphere. Again, experimenting is key!

Get down on the same level with kids, pets and others that are smaller than you. No one wants to see photos of the tops of their heads.


A sloping horizon in a landscape or even a portrait can be incredibly distracting, so make sure it’s level.

Many cameras have a built-in electronic level that can be displayed in the viewfinder or on the main screen to guide you, but if not, there are some bubble level accessories you can fit into the camera hot-shoe (normally used for an external flash unit).

Also, many tripods have a level built in if you’re looking into buying one.

Watch your sloping horizon. I know of no places where the ocean is sloping. Watch carefully that you have a level horizon.


Amputation occurs in photography when you compose or crop the image in such a way that the subject ends up having some part of his/her body cut off. Most of the time you can solve this issue by using a shorter focal length or stepping back a bit to accommodate all of the subject.  But if there are constraints that prevent using these fixes, you can crop the subject in safe zones, like the areas between joints or mid-abdomen. Cropping the subject at joints like the elbows, neck, wrists, knees is strictly a no go.

Here is another example of cropping too much. This person on the left, got his head scalped off. Make sure you don’t cut off any parts of the body to make a good photo.

These are just a few of the composition things to watch out for. They may seem minor, but they are so easily done if we are not watching out for them.

This is blog #996
Woman wearing a red head scarf.
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