What is composition? And why do we struggle with it so much?

As an educator, this is the most common issue that comes up at my workshops. So what is composition? Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ‘ingredients’ in a photograph.

When you look at a scene, you have to translate that scene into your camera, but it is not as easy as that.  First, you have to figure out the lighting situation, then you have to figure out everything in that frame and how it makes sense for all those elements to fill the frame to be able to tell your story.

I like to use all the elements around me, if the conditions are not perfect, you can still make a great photo. Sit back and look at all your options. First figure out the light, after that start working with the elements around you to fill the frame. In this photo, I use the shadows from the pier to lead the viewer into the image.  I work with the sun and the clouds as my main focal point and I use the birds to finish everything up and fill all the negative space to make this image more interesting.

I go into detail in this video. How do you figure out composition? Do you struggle with it too? What tips would you add to the list? Please leave them in the comments below.

what is composition