Simple Tricks for Improving Photographic Composition in the Digital Darkroom

Digital DarkroomEffective composition can make or break a photograph. All photographers have returned from a shoot and felt disappointment looking at their pictures, and this is often down to poor composition. Fortunately, there are a number of simple tricks which can be used in the digital darkroom to improve a picture.

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Photoshop is regarded as one of the best software tools for photo editing, but there are many other options. For example, Gimp is a free to download photo editing package which offers many of the same functions as Photoshop. The following improvements to composition can be made using most image editing tools.

Crop in tight

Wasted space around the main subject is one of the main faults which can ruin a picture. Photographs of people can be turned from snapshots into portraits with some smart cropping. Cropping in tight to a subject creates a much more powerful photograph, and it can be achieved in a few clicks in the digital darkroom. Some photo editing tools offer gridlines which can be used to crop with great precision.

Straighten up

Basic tools can be used to remedy a wonky horizon or correct camera tilt in an image. Shooting with the horizon at a slight angle is an easy mistake to make in the heat of the moment, and correcting this can be an instant improvement to a picture’s composition.

The Clone Stamp

Another common annoyance which can ruin a picture is something you didn’t notice at the time you took the shot, such as a post behind someone’s head. Telephone or electricity cables often spoil an otherwise great landscape shot. The Clone Stamp is a fantastic tool to cover these mistakes. It can be used to paint sky or grass over a distraction and bring an instant improvement to a photograph. The Clone Stamp can also be used to add more attractive elements to a picture, such as painting additional flowers into a garden scene.

Rotate for effect

Rotating a picture can add a sense of movement and create a highly dynamic image. This technique is particularly effective for action shots, but also works well with certain styles of portraits. The composition of an otherwise dull shot can be improved with simple use of rotation tools.

The Blur Tool

Too much sharpness in a photograph can confuse the eye and make it hard to identify the intended subject. Opening the aperture will blur the background and isolate the main subject, but it’s not always possible to achieve this effect when a shot is taken. The Blur Tool in image editing software allows the user to remove distractions from the background and create a more effective composition. A similar effect can be achieved using layers and filters in the digital darkroom, but this requires more experience.

Flip the image

A very simple way to improve the composition of a photograph is to flip the picture horizontally or vertically. If you wish you’d taken a shot with the subject on the other side of the frame, this quick change will produce a more effective composition.
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Content Aware Tool

The latest version of Photoshop offers the incredibly powerful Content Aware Tool. This allows a subject to be moved within a picture in seconds. Photoshop replaces the pixels left behind with those that match the blank space, making the change invisible. This is the ultimate tool for improving composition in the digital darkroom.