Tip # 1: The Rule Of Thirds
If you have ever been an art or design student, you've probably heard of this rule. It's the most basic place to start when learning to compose your images. The easiest way to think about it is chopping what you see in your viewfinder on your camera into 3 equal parts, like the lines you see drawn below. After you have done this in your head, position your subject in either the left or right 1/3 of the compostion and then snap away. A photography teacher once told me that centering a person in the middle of a frame would "suck the life" from them. He was a big believer in the rule of thirds, clearly. What is fantastic about this rule is once you understand it, you can break it!
I wouldn't say I "broke" the rule of thirds in the baby photo below (that's my niece! isn't she the prettiest baby you've ever seen?) but rather I inverted it. I left the top of the photo free to breathe while still "techincally" following the rule of thirds.
Tip # 2: "White" or Free Space
In graphic design we have a term called "white space". It's the amount of free space left on a design that helps the viewers eye go where we'd like it to. It's probably the best kept secret in imagery based communication and something artists, designers and photographers use more than anything else to convey a feeling....they work with what ISNT there even more than what IS.
Imagine if the photo above was reversed and the free space was BEHIND the mother rather than in front of her belly. The photo would seem cramped or as if this mother-to-be was being "left in the dust"...it could even convey loneliness. For some shots that would be perfect but not for maternity photos! Be very thoughtful about the free space you leave in a photo when it comes to pointing your viewer towards the feelings you want them to experience.
Tip # 3: Have A Ball, Baby.
Once you understand the first two tips, you can break the rules. I LOVE photographing still life items "as the bird flies". There is something so romantic and whimsical about it. Doing this with people can be challenging but absolutely stunning when done well. It also is a fantastic way to photograph food for those of you cooks out there.
Centering your subject in the middle of the frame completely breaks the "rule of thirds". However doing this where appropriate can really communicate a bold statement. I don't know exactly what the photo below "says", but to me it looks like adventure and living honestly. Somehow, centering the shoes in the frame has a lot to do with this.
Here Comes the Sun Contributor