Tip: Pre-Composing an Image

  • February 24, 2012
  • /
  • Tips

BressonI’m a huge fan of street photography. I love the way the people who are good at it are able to capture such magical yet fleeting moments. Moments that if cameras had never been invented would be otherwise lost forever. The way I’ve always tried to capture street scenes has been very reactionary.

I walk around the city hoping something interesting will happen. I do my best to compose the image but the composition usually ends up fairly bland. The masters of this art form often take pictures that would be great architectural or landscape photos even if there were no people in them at all. Until recently this has always baffled me, but I’ve since learned one tip that may help.

Pre-Composing Images

I wish I could credit the source of this tip but I can’t recall who it was that said this on a program I was watching. This photographer said their approach to street photography was essentially to sit in one position, perfectly compose their image and then wait for someone to walk by. A stunningly simple methodology that just had never occurred to me. Funny how that works.

Suddenly a lot of street images I’ve loved for so long made sense to me and I decided I had to try it for myself. There aren’t many picturesque buildings in my neighborhood but there is a good amount of foot traffic. I stood across the street from the oldest building I could find, dialed in my settings including manually focusing and composed my image. After about 15 minutes a man passed by and I captured the photo below. It may not be an technical masterpiece but it certainly does demonstrate how the technique can and does work!



Final Image


Hopefully this tip will give you a new tool for capturing candid images! If you’d like to learn more about composition tips and techniques sign up for our Fundamentals of Photography class or schedule a Private Lesson for one-on-one instruction!

Written by Trevor Warren