Help with composition (suburbs).

We live in the suburbs. Since Covid, we haven’t traveled much. I’m struggling to find interesting subjects for photos around my house. “The moon” and “sunsets” have become projects. But I’m not happy with any of the photos I take. Houses, utility poles, etc. don’t fit in with what my brain thinks it sees away from the view finder.

Consider the group of 3 photos taken on the same evening. In all three, I feel like the horizon is too low. But if I raise the horizon, then I’m getting the windows of peoples’ houses. Since they are in the foreground, the house and whatever is happening inside the house is going to be the focal point.

The top right is my favorite because of the colors and textures, but I don’t like it enough to print. The chimney caps don’t belong. I sketched a crop that probably looks better, but it’s losing a lot of the blue and deep texture that made the scene interesting.

The bottom left is the same spot, but, I zoomed out and re-framed in portrait. I feel like the horizon is really low. And the foreground tree branches don’t add anything. Not sure if there’s a crop to “fix” it.

The top left is the most disappointing. There was an airplane con trail cutting across the sunset. It didn’t show up well in the capture. And I don’t like the chimney caps and utility poles. Maybe a solution is to embrace that I am in the city and make them a larger part of the foreground instead of trying to pretend they don’t exist.

The bottom right has more daylight. The trees frame the sky a bit more. But the details of peoples houses aren’t interesting.

Wondering about thoughts / comments to help me get around this block.

I’ve got similar views out my front door. I’ve found that, if the ground doesn’t have anything interesting, put it in the very bottom of the frame and concentrate on the composition provided by the clouds. And then, the wider the focal length, the better…

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In the photo courses I’ve taken, the instructors all emphasized the same thing: every good photograph has a subject.

The moon is a separate topic, but in my experience I find “sunsets” are not really a subject in and of themselves - there always needs to be a foreground element to give you some grounding, and I think this is what you’re seeing. As you mention - when you have houses or power lines they become the subject, and when you have just the sky the photos are “good” but not interesting enough to print.

Robert Capa once said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough” - I would start by seeing if there are any parks nearby - perhaps one with a single tree or copse to provide a subject for your sunset scene? Using an ultra-wide lens and getting close enough for a tree silhouette to fill the frame with the sunset as a backdrop might provide a great photo.

Another piece of advice I heard when shooting a sunset was “turn around” - quite often the best shot from a sunset can be behind you, as the illumination on nearby objects can make them seem otherworldly.

As a third piece of advice I’ve also found that reflections (eg,from a window) can be good as well. A glass building reflecting the sunset can provide a great subject. (I did this for one of my First Light shots a few years ago - if it interests you, I can post it here for you to see.)


The trees and sky seem to interest you more than buildings. Fair enough. You might find gardens, parks, fields and so on where you can shoot trees against the sky without buildings also in shot.

Another possibility: get close enough to buildings that you can see (and photograph) structure and texture. Be sensitive to echoes in structures and textures of trees and sky. Contrast may be extreme, so HDR techniques may be useful.

Alternatively, since it’s hard to get a good wide view in your current circumstances, choose instead to focus on the little things. Take photos of your garden, or do still lives - objects that are homely and don’t require wide views. A leaf instead of a tree. Texture instead of scenes. Even do little photoshoots with the people you live with. There’s lots to play with here - light, fashion, expression, props.


Personally, I don’t find disturbing the houses in images 1, 2, and 3 at all. Actually, I think the black ‘artificial’ silhouettes can be a nice contrast to the ‘natural’ sunset. But you need to make sure that they’re realy pitch black and without detail, clip them in postprocessing if necessary. That’s why image 4 doesn’t work for me, you see the roof as a real roof.


Thanks for taking the time, everyone.

@Karl , @snibgo @Soupy, I went back through a few of the photos I really liked and they fit everything you said. Including going to the park (the bird is in my back yard). We weren’t going to talk about the moon, but I have one of those too.

@guille2306, @ggbutcher, I have a better sunset. Different location. It follows your advice. The one window light doesn’t bother me. The house looks lived in, but it’s not enough light to draw your eye away from the sky and silhouette.

Yes, @guille2306, I agree about the lighting in pic #4, so the rest of your suggestions make sense.

@snibgo, I’ve tried walk around in a 250-year old city to capturing architectural details. I didn’t have an eye for it. But it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try again. The pictures I like, I didn’t plan.

I’m not consistent about picking up the camera, so I fell into a rut of shooters block. Again, thanks for taking the time.


I feel this is more of a #capturing topic.

Here is another take. I sense you may be sweating too much in trying to find the perfect composition. Relax a bit, go out there and have some fun. The reason why I don’t take good photos or share many of them here is that I am too uptight to capture some truly compelling frames.

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When I feel in a rut or like I can’t find a composition, I go back to the basics: line, shape, color, and I look for the simplest composition I can find then gradually try and increase the compositional complexity.


I think every photographer goes through that from time to time. You can either try to power through it (never really worked for me) or take a break and take up something else for a week or so. Regardless of which path you choose, looking at other people’s photos can be a good way to find inspiration.

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Composition is most important. As already stated above, focus on smaller things. Or use a longer lens for the “big views”. Just a single tree or branch with a colorful sky in the background.

I find this video by Thomas Heaton inspiring. Although, the landscape in the video is still more interesting than what I find at my doorstep :wink:.


That’s a very nice image. I guess you can’t go a bit higher so the orange of the sky is above the roof, no?

Regarding the window: I would just clone it out. Is not enough to show there is ‘life’ inside the house, so even if it doesn’t bother too much it also doesn’t add anything for me. The same for the lights below the trees at the left side.


I like set one, picture two, red box, set two picture one, the rose and interesting, set one picture 4, wavy white clouds,

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