beginner, education, instructional, national parks, photography, travel, workshop

10 Comp Tips For Better Photos

As photographers, there is much that is out of our control; weather, wildlife, seasonal changes, road/ trail conditions, etc.

But one thing that we always have ultimate control over is our compositions. Just like a composer of music has the ability to manage the notes, tones, and rests of his/ her musical compositions, photographers have the responsibility of choosing what to include, what to leave out, and how the viewer will ultimately see and feel the final image.

Here are 10 major composition techniques that, if used properly, will make your photos drastically better, immediately.


Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.


Placing your main subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more in- teresting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.


When we look at an image, our eye is naturally drawn along lines. Being thoughtful and intentional about how you place lines in your composition can dramatically affect the way the viewer sees the image. It can pull the viewer into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of leading lines – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.


We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the sym- metry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.


Before photographing your subject, take time to think about from where you will shoot. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.


How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject. Silhouettes can be an incredibly valuable and striking way to do this well.


Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.


The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.


Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background “noise”, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.


Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the “rules” above should be taken with a grain of salt. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they usually prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.

— Andrew

Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE

Check out our new show, ONE WILD LIFE, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel! 

Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
For assignment work requests, please email me:
Thanks for visiting!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2018

BRANDS + CREATIVES // Why We Need Them, and They Need Us

Creatives and brands have always had a close relationship, but there’s never been a time in history when these two groups have been more dependent on each other.


Content, content, content. 

We are bombarded daily with images and moving clips. It comes from everywhere; TV, billboards, social media, news articles, texts, etc. If there’s one day that passes in our modern lives when we don’t look at hundreds of images and short clips, we’re likely dead. Where does all of this content come from?



Much of it is what is referred to as “user generated”. This just means, me and you, and every other Jo Schmo who snaps a pic with his iPhone and uploads it to Instagram. Well, this is a huge pool from which brands can draw. And it’s all free marketing.

So what about us? The professionals who make a living shooting for brands?

It’s the same old story since the beginning of commercial art… There’s always someone out there willing to give their work for free, and a host of creatives sit around bitching about how the market is flooded and so and so’s ruining our industry, and the sky is falling…. blah… blah… blah.

Well, I subscribe to the philosophy that we as creatives have an innate need to grow creatively and to work hard, contrary to popular belief. Clients will always recognize the inherent worth of our work, if we’re willing to create work that is worth anything! Even if it’s meant to look user gen.

So back to my point…. user generated content can only be taken so far. Companies know this. It is fantastic to mix in the user gen pics and video, but brands will always need professional quality and consistency. Even the big dogs can’t count on good user gen content everyday.

In the old days, a medium sized company would only license about a hundred images in a given year… now they will likely go through thousands. True, some of that is free content, but the amount of paid, licensed work a brand will purchase annually has skyrocketed.


The Old Faithfuls

That’s where creatives come in. The ones they can count on, every time.

More and more, I am creating “image banks” for my clients and brands, where they are able to go and grab what they need, when they need it, to fill in the user gen gaps. They even find it useful for print and other marketing needs.

It’s a great relationship. We want to be out there being creative, pushing ourselves and growing. They need eye catching imagery, again and again and again…. So be sure you are there when they need you.




The market is definitely changing. But in my opinion, there’s more of a need for us “old faithfuls” out there than there ever has been. The world is only demanding more and more content, and it does’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. So, as much as we need them (so we can continue to put food on the table and pay rent)… they need us, and our creative, beautiful, and consistent content.

— andrew

In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!

Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
For assignment work requests, please email me:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016