One more time – How do we compose a photo?

If you want to make better photos, they have to have the right exposure in interesting light.  They should also be focused correctly.  Finally, you need to have an interesting subject, composed well.  I was reminded of these things when we visited the world famous Wanaka Tree in New Zealand.  Here’s what we did.

There was plenty of room for photographers the morning we were there.

The Lake Wanaka tree is about an hour from Queenstown in the south western region of the South Island.  It is very famous, having its own twitter account.  It is much smaller than I had imagined.  We photographed it at sunset and at sunrise and thought sunrise had the better light and calmer winds.

Now, do you place the tree in the middle of the frame, the right side, or the left side?  How tight should the shot be?

I already had a bias to place it to the lower left since that is my favorite spot to place any subject.  The tree is also leaning right which influenced me even more.  Mary placed the tree to the left which is interesting.

This is pleasant. It accentuates the mountains and has some good dissonance.

You should always try portrait and landscape orientations and decide later what works better.  I think there is too much space below the tree in this composition.

How close should the tree be?  Below is another nice composition that allows for the shadow of the tree to be in the foreground and plenty of sky and mountains.

What about in the middle?  Usually you do not want your subject dead center.  However, getting tighter and making the photo a square does three things: the subject now pops out and is clearly the center of attention without distraction; the tree is now green rather than being in the deep shadows; finally, the alpenglow also pops off the mountains that are now more compressed into the photo.

There are many ways to compose a great subject like the Wanaka tree.  All of these are fine compositions.  It all depends on what you like best and what appeals to you visually and emotionally.

Here is our very popular blog position about Golden Ratio composition.

To see more of (and buy) our photos, please go to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s