October 29, 2021

What makes a photo composition successful? Part III: Impact through closeups

By Lars Gesing
What makes a photo composition successful? Part III: Impact through closeups

This is the third part in a six-part online photography tutorial and education series teaching you how to create great compositions with any camera and how to quickly start to improve your photography. Click to read parts I and IIWant more content like this? Click here to sign up for my free "Art of Seeing" newsletter.


Remember how in the last part of this series on how to learn making successful photography compositions, I was talking about developing what I dubbed “70-200” vision? It was all about simplifying a scene and removing distractions by isolating your subject. It’s rooted in a mistake I see many photography beginners make: Trying to include everything in the shot.

Today’s lesson builds on top of that principle of simplification. I want you to train your eyes to look even closer, to not forget to look down on what’s below you, not just what’s in front of you. You can dramatically improve your photography compositions and create a TON of impact through closeups.

Here are a few of examples of images that I’ve created over the years…

A fine art photograph of colorful leaves during the peak of fall in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

When you create these types of images, it is easiest to start looking for patterns that are interesting to you, both in terms of patterns of lines as well as in terms of patterns of color.

The resulting images usually offer a ton of intrigue. It’s not always immediately clear to the viewer what they are looking at, but a well-done closeup frame spikes their curiosity enough to try and figure it out. These types of scenes oftentimes have an element of abstraction.

There are a few conditions/scenes that lend themselves particularly well to creating these types of images:

  • Ice / frost patterns
  • Reflections on water
  • Colorful leaves
  • Rocks
  • Lines in the sand at receding tide
  • Shapes of leaves (think ferns, corn lilies etc.)

These are just a few examples, though. Once you start looking for these types of compositions, you’ll see them everywhere. Don’t get frustrated if your first attempts don’t immediately yield the results you are hoping for. This is a photographic technique that requires a lot more experimentation, patience and the acceptance that you’ll just be wandering around a whole lot until some pattern catches your eye.

One more thing: You don’t need a macro lens to create closeup photographs. Most of the images in this blog post were shot with my 17-40mm wide angle lens or a 70-200mm zoom lens.

PS: If you have questions about this — or thoughts — post them in the comments. If you found this content by chance (thanks, Google…) and want more like it, CLICK HERE TO sign up for my free “The Art of Seeing” newsletter!