Composition “rules” –– it’s important to understand the concepts so that you have them in the back of your mind while shooting. This 6-minute video from photographer Evan Ranft runs through 4 common composition mistakes that photographers make, and how to avoid them.

Here are before and after images so you can follow the mistakes on the image.

The 4 Composition mistakes:

1. Double Subject

The first example is what Ranft refers to as the ‘double subject’ – where you position two subjects in an image with equal weighting. This splits your attention and creates conflict in the image.

Don’t split the image –– select a subject for the foreground and create isolation using a shallow depth of field. This creates a primary focus for the viewer’s eye to settle on.

2. The Look Out

In this example, Ranft has again split the focus in his image and directed his subject to look out of the frame. This creates tension in the image by directing the viewer’s eye outside of the image.

A balanced image would be to have the subject leading out gaze in to the image and towards the forest backdrop. This can be used effectively based on the scene.

3. Tangent Lines

This example has background elements cutting through the subject in a way that reduces isolation of the subject and cuts up the image.

Try to find a more open backdrop. You will be able to frame your subject in the image and capture a similar sense of motion, using leading lines to draw the viewer towards the model.

4. Being Lazy

Ranft’s favorite example is the “pet photo test”, typical a snapshot that many people might take of a cute pet. With no any composition techniques –– the photo above was just captures to include the subject in the frame.

Improving this photo doesn’t take much work. Shooting from eye-level has drastically improved the image. Ranft’s advice is to try not to be lazy and keep on the lookout for better composition opportunities.