Photography Tips: Composition and Breaking Symmetry
Photography Tips: Composition and Breaking Symmetry

I don’t have a little chat with you
about composition about what you like and what you don’t like and whether
there is a right or wrong about it and what you may do about things like that
possibly using photoshop or another post production piece of software I’m in Pfäffikon which is just outside of
zurich where i run my master class every year now last year I took a shot from this
very spot and it kind of completely split the group as to whether they liked
it or whether they didn’t and it’s all in the realm of composition and changing
things what you like and what you don’t like we just talk you through it so here we’ve got the Smashing little
old wooden dock and the timbers are all kind of wrinkly and splendid we got the
lake in the distance we’ve got some mountains they’re going to be a little
bit bright in your viewfinder but we’re going to adjust the exposure in the
camera now when it comes to post-production
when it comes to removing things from a picture if i was going to remove
anything from a picture without falling in the lake it would be down here on the end of this
dock can you see we’ve got this nasty metal things sticking up on a scaffold
pole I think it kind of totally ruins it if i
was going to fiddle around in photoshop and remove an element from the picture it
would be that but what about this nasty-looking electric box well you can’t be photoshopped that so
that’s about getting the composition right that’s about thinking your way
through the image doing what you need to do to lose that from the shot in the
first place it’s simple it’s a twig here and these
are what caused the bone of contention we’re going to come to that so let’s go
take the shot let’s just go through what we going to do on the camera and now
I’ve done quite a bit of the composition work already the camera on the tripod i like tripods
because you can do a composition and then that jobs done I’m gonna think about it again and you
can think about the other stuff but i am just going to briefly talk you through
it so let’s get this thing rocking and rolling and that’s if we can get the
video button and get that filming it’s really fiddly depressed there we go we’re filming people right if I just look through here you can see
on the right we’ve got that nice looking electric box so we can bring our
composition of where do we want to I don’t want the horizon in the middle but
the most important thing is to lose the electric box so by zooming my lens very very slightly you see I can just sneak it out past it
look you see we’ve lost the edge of that electric box it is kind of gone so that’s pretty good there’s something
I want you to bear in mind well I’m doing this is that right now this camera is recording video 16 by 9
it’s a different shape to the finished picture I’m just giving you an idea ok because
you may see things in this bit of video that won’t be in the final shot a
different shape but that roughly gives you you see we’ve got the horizon nice and
level we got our doc we got the water we got the mountains we got a couple little twigs you can
just see them they sort of poking in over here aren’t they these little bad boys here should we
remove them or not I don’t know we’ll come to that let’s
take the shot let’s have a look at our options we’re taking this picture so i like
using aperture priority don’t I so that’s what I’m going to do what sort
of just making sure my order focuses in the right place and one single point
autofocus where do I want to focus somewhere on the dock so let’s stop the video so that i can do
the still it’s so filling this thing one day I’ll be able to do it easily there we go right so about single point autofocus I’m
gonna put the autofocus point on the little dock that’s where we’re going to focus I like
aperture priority so how am I going to expose i’m going to get the histogram so
I got maximum data we’ve got tons of bright in the sky and we’ve got fairly
dark stuff going on on the dock so usually histogram using a DSLR you need
to take a test shot have a look in the back check it ok I can do it live on this because I
can see it through the viewfinder and unfortunately I can’t show you that they can
video it okay we’ve got our composition sorted
out already haven’t we we did that zooming the lens we kind of
lost that nasty electric box and we’re ready to go with the shot so i’m just
going to take a shot have a look at it and see what the
histogram has to say about it look at the histogram you can see it’s a
little bit off to the left when we want to do simple isn’t it brighten it up for
you guys that leave me messages saying what aperture should i use what exposure
should i use this is how you do it you check the histogram and then you adjust
accordingly there is no right answer every situation is different so I’m in aperture priority so let’s just dial it
up a bit let’s just go up the third of a stopwatch a picture of my using f-18 in
this case because I want lots of depth of field and got a low I so let’s take a
shot again I don’t have to put my eye to eye just
like doing it and again have a look and see what the histogram
says he’s taking a marks to the right a bit under the one more in a bit brighter you need to do this very quickly to
because the light is changing all the time and while I’m talking to you it could be
changing again there we go look at the histogram if we just go one two three see how it’s taken a much to the right about
maximum data in each end so we’ve got a shot there and it looks really nice but what about those little twigs on the
right now i kinda like them why do i like them is because they sort
of breaking up the symmetry if we look in real life we’ve got the dock we’ve got
a straight line here is running through rate up the middle of the picture we’ve got the straight hard-edged
running across the edge we then got the edge of the lake we’ve
got a bit of broken symmetry above that going on where it sort of jaggedy up and down yeah and then we got some sky all those
natural shapes which are not straight lines my bone of contention was our little
twigs now this is the original shot that I
took i’m showing you that now that was taken with a neutral density filter
because i wanted a bit of movement in the clouds and all that kind of stuff I brought up in the workshop when we
were reviewing some images we’d all taken in the same place and initially I
thought I’m going to photoshop these little buggers out but then when I saw on the screen I
thought I really like them they’re disrupting the symmetry now I was a disruptive influence in the
classroom at school I was the one who’s always told Brown go to their master or
disruptive influence but in photography sometimes that can be great now half the class loved the little
twigs and half the people on our Facebook Places yeah like it they’re
kind of disturbing but the other half really didn’t this is not a yam ambivalent about it
most people love it or hate it but is it right or is it wrong that’s your choice to make because the
only person the end of the day you have to please is you so let’s have a little poll here
if you like the twigs then right like if you don’t like the twigs right no twigs in the little coment box that’s
when the little comment box that’s of course you’re seeing on youtube you’re
seeing this on my side there isn’t a comment box but you can always leave it
in a comment on the facebook page where where i posted it that’d be really really cool so
interesting to see who likes what and also to notice how many people like
what and then you can gauge whether that is right or wrong the people who like it are they wrong
other people who don’t like it and they wrong it’s good question is it so very
subjective subscribe to our YouTube channel to be
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100 thoughts on “Photography Tips: Composition and Breaking Symmetry”

  1. Denis Thibeault says:


  2. Aftab rathore says:


  3. Ja Natürlich says:


  4. Brett Hondow says:

    No twigs. It keeps drawing my attention way from the main focus which is quite irritating.

  5. nigel west says:

    No Twigs

  6. Jack Thorogood says:

    like the twigs

  7. Nature Good says:

    so what's the exif of the final picture? 1/55 wouldn't give you the smooth water effect.

  8. David Reynolds says:

    More twigs!

  9. Michael Angelo H. says:

    You know, I AM kind of in the middle about this, because both have their thing.
    Without the twigs it's very clean, but with them it has that disruption which gives it this tiny bit of distraction of the otherwise rather "cliché" view (in that, it's yet another landscape image over the water). And maybe the twigs, as benign as they are, give a little impulse to the viewer.
    The thing is, the people who hate it are often the type that just want everything to be perfect. Like the OCD kind of crowd. – They're also the type who wouldn't purchase a used camera or wouldn't breathe on the lens. If you know what I mean… Not trying to be rude, but you know the type of people who freak out about any inconsistencies. (I used to be one. Now I use old cameras with scratchy lenses and film in questionable condition. Don't care anymore. haha)

  10. Michael Angelo H. says:

    You know what annoys me a lot more than something like the twig-issue at hand… (Keeping mind that everything is a matter of preference.) – The wide landscape pictures that show a lot of foreground. And I mean starting very close to the camera, showing a lot of ground or scenery that isn't interesting, often making a third of the available image very boring. – This is something many people do and it annoys me to no end. Because not only is it always the same, it also leaves out more interesting stuff higher up, or they even cut off things like mountain peaks and such. – The rocks and large body of water in the foreground aren't that interesting…

  11. Ahmad Mahmood says:

    No twigs

  12. Marc Valade says:

    Twigs. Nature is perfect.

  13. Simon Paterson says:

    Like. I think the twigs add a bit more to the atmosphere. Plus the twigs add as a little lead in to the dock

  14. Stephen Greg says:

    no twigs 🙂

  15. HK Wong says:

    no twigs! if we gonna break the symmetry then the twigs should be more pronounced, instead of a tiny bit like this.
    but still of course, amazing photo!!

  16. Cindy KING says:

    I like the twig

  17. Ken Williams says:

    My preference – definitely no twigs – it pulls my eye off the dock right away…!

  18. MimiC ReKed says:

    No twigs but great pic

  19. starsearchreject says:


  20. Joshua Middleton says:

    no like

  21. Too Much says:

    I like the twigs

  22. AlexDownUnder says:

    a bit late but…No twigs

  23. Roger Simpson says:

    For me … no twigs. Nice video by the way Mike.

  24. Sunshine Perry says:

    I actually like the twigs, they add a little mystery to it.

  25. AMAR9933 says:

    No twigs 😀

  26. Trade Emperors says:


  27. Danny P says:

    Yes, twigs please.

  28. Mickey Stine says:


  29. Brett Grace says:

    I like lamp

  30. Philip Keys says:

    No Twigs

  31. Chak Wong says:

    Definitely NO twigs!

  32. Oguz Benice says:

    No Twigs

  33. Ambrish K says:


  34. Donny Helvey says:

    Love the twigs–disrupt away!!!

  35. Rusty Binges says:

    Like the twigs

  36. Lenie Hulse says:

    I would just break off the twigs!! Boom problem solved!! Lol

  37. June Bannister says:

    I think the twigs on the right of the frame make the photo unbalanced and take your eye away from the deck. If there were twigs on the left of the frame, however, I would have included them to create a more balanced image. A nice photo though.

  38. Bruce Wolfe says:

    No twigs. I would like to maintain the symmetry unless there are twigs on both sides then your back to the symmetry . You can move closer and use a wider lens perhaps .

  39. Jim Thornton says:

    I like the twigs. They aren't distracting to me, break up the symmetry, and just add just another element of interest to the picture.

  40. Tim Blake says:


  41. Ben Galley says:

    No twigs 😊

  42. iga-el says:

    no twigs
    thanks for all the great videos you make

  43. Linda Solomon says:

    Like the twigs Mike

  44. bar nel says:


  45. Graeme says:


  46. Vincent Conde says:

    I like the twig

  47. Yonathan Beniyam says:

    No twigs

  48. john embry says:


  49. Tech Ride says:

    No twigs.

  50. Gary M says:

    Nice one Mike you never let me down

  51. Kai Tendo says:

    Like 🙂

  52. Tony Sleigh says:


  53. Tony Sleigh says:

    I like symmetrical photos but I also find that having a distraction makes the photos more interesting and natural rather than too clinical. I love your videos Mike. Awesome.

  54. Amanda Warren says:

    No twigs, if adding twigs there needs to be more. With it like this, it just looks like a mistake.

  55. Hiram Guerra says:

    I like both, the twigs and the boat on the left side. They are balanced, and more natural the pic.

  56. Richard Potter says:

    nice video but it would be tempting to snap the twigs :/

  57. Maria Murillo says:

    No twigs. Love the way you teach. Thank you!

  58. Kristi Franzwa says:

    No twigs! Ick!
    Love your vids though.❤️

  59. phil lonie says:

    Like both ideas but would go with no twig s for a more calming picture love the work and instructions

  60. VeganMachine says:

    He needs to get to the point. He drags things on way longer than they need to be. The twigs pull focus. One of the main things you avoid in these photos. It's not a leading line. This dude is garbage.

  61. Paul D says:

    I prefer the photo without the twigs. They are distracting from the subject. Tho could have put the dock off center to break the symmetry. Great point of consideration.

  62. Milutin Mujovic says:

    No twigs. 🙂

  63. Elke Richard says:

    No twigs

  64. Steven Dople says:

    No t

  65. Perfecto Avellaneda says:


  66. makemarker says:

    I twig the likes 🙂

  67. Jens Graikowski says:

    No twigs, but as you already said yourself, there's no right or wrong. After all we're talking about art here and art is about expressing YOURSELF, not about rules or pleasing others (unless you do it commercially). Another great video, btw. 👍🏼😉

  68. Alone Journey says:

    Like the twig , because its kinda acting like foreground and giving the image 3d look….

  69. Brandon Waiss says:

    I dislike the twigs. They add visual load and cause the eyes to get distracted. I'm a designer, not a photographer per se.

  70. Sanjib Mukhopadhyay says:

    With the twigs. They are like a pinch of salt, without which the whole composition would have been "tasteless". They are like rebels, who makes the composition more bold and standing unique as some one who has broken the rule!!

  71. NV Creators says:

    Either way, the twigs are okay to me.

  72. Juan Carlos Lopez says:

    Again, thank you for your video! Having started photography with film, I am not inclined to use post-porcessing software at all. It is my respectful opinion that, the art of photography, as well as painting, is about that shot you made without alterations. I think that including the alteration of the picture, takes away from the pothograph. My humble preference! 😉

  73. Juan Carlos Lopez says:

    I lke the twigs! Where is your FB page?

  74. Kiss Máté says:

    That twig makes it tiers better.

  75. Eugene Fedechko says:


  76. Ian Seward says:


  77. Cutty Cunningham says:

    Like the twigs

  78. Duane Dinham says:

    no twigs for me

  79. South Korea Countryside says:


  80. Mr. Spock says:

    No twigs.

  81. Anthony Maloco says:


  82. bob bowring says:

    Hi Mick I was wondering on what tripods you use. Great videos.

  83. bob bowring says:


  84. Whale driver says:

    Like the twigs!

  85. Jim Graves says:


  86. Neil Tuppeny says:


  87. Gilbert LaBiaga says:

    If you remove one or two part of the whole picture you subjectively don't like the natural beauty of the art is lost.

  88. jeffrey elliott says:

    No twigs for me.

  89. johnlochness says:

    No twigs

  90. Graham Napier says:

    Don't like sorry. Draws my eyes to the twigs

  91. John Lopez says:

    Team #twigs!!!

  92. Alan Pearce says:

    I can't really see how it matters.


  93. Masood Ahmed says:


  94. Rajeev Kamalasanan says:

    Awesome video

  95. Akansha Agarwal says:

    No twigs

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