Composition is one of the most important aspects of good photography, it can not be set automatically by the camera. This is done purely by the photographer. I believe that it is essential to learn the basic rules of composition, before you can begin to break the rules of composition. Yes I know what you are thinking that is a contradiction, well yes it is, but you will begin to understand why it is important to master the rules first before we can bend them, distort them and even break them.
Simple things can make a big difference to the composition of your photographs. You do not need to get too technical, something as simple as changing the angle of your view by kneeling instead of standing upright or just by taking a step to one side you will be amazed at the difference it makes to the image. Just try it take a shot of an image and then change your position by sitting kneeling or standing on something, anything you can think of, just remember to stay safe and not to take any risks.
Rule Of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is one of the oldest and one of the most taught rules of composition. Put simply it you divide your image into a grid of 9 equal sections by using 2 lines running vertically and 2 line running horizontally.
The idea is quite simple you place your point of interest where the lines intersect rather than directly in the center of your photograph. This gives your image a more balanced appearance, when we look at any photograph we tend to look at these points rather than the middle of the image.
All DSLR's and many compact cameras these days come with a feature that allows you to place a grid over your view finder, this makes the process so much easier. As time goes on and you become more attuned to doing this you will find that you do not even need the grid it will become second nature.
When photography landscapes divide your image into three sky, horizon and foreground, then place your point of interest on one of the intersecting line this will give your image a much more powerful and dramatic effect. It does not need to be exactly remember this is a guide so do not become too bogged down with getting it perfect. Practice taking lots of different shots and see which looks the best, you will be amazed at how much your photographs improve and how your confidence grows each time.
Horizontal or Vertical
One of the simplest things you can do to change the composition of your photographs is to turn your camera on its side and photograph an image vertically, it's amazing how many of us never do this, It can change a photograph completely. Even landscape photography which is traditionally taken in a horizontal format can be improved so much by simply using your camera in a vertical format. For instance if you have a scene with a path leading up to tour point of interest or a long meandering stream, both of these can be much more effective if shot vertically rather than horizontally.
Framing your image is also an option, I do not mean framing your image with a wooden frame after you have taken the shot. These can be natural frames such as a doorway, an archway or tree's anything can be used. Have fun with this and see what is around you when composing your image, you will be amazed at the many different natural frames available to you and the difference that they make to your photographs.
The background is something many new photographers tend to pay little or no attention, this can make or break a photograph. A busy or distracting background will detract from the main point of interest in your image and inevitably ruin your intended effect. Quite simply pay attention to what is around you, will the background complement your photograph or will it be too distracting, can you change your position and improve the background. Maybe you have no option and have to put up with the background you have, well there is still something you can do. If you have no option but to use the back ground you have, then one option is to make your main point of interest sharp and blur the background, this is achieved by using a wide aperture this means reducing the F number on your lens to the lowest possible F number F3.5 or F2.8. The lower the F number the more the background will blur so experiment and see how much you want the background to blur.
These are just a few ways in which you can improve your photographs using composition, the best way you can master these techniques is by practice so just get out there and have a go. Do not be afraid to experiment and try different things, remember these are guide lines you do not have to stick to them religiously. Once again the most important thing is for you to enjoy yourself and have fun.