Photography Tips – Composition Too Tight

Since jumping into the world of DSLR cameras I’ve become just a little obsessed with cramming as much knowledge on the subject in as possible. I spend hours changing settings, switching lenses and taking practice shots. I still have a ton to learn and I’m in no way an expert – these are tips that work for me, but may not work for all.

My main goal this year was to get pictures approved by the photography gods over at TasteSpotting and Foodgawker. I had been submitting pictures to them forever with no luck. Instead of letting all the denials crush my dreams of ever being accepted I decided to take note of the reasons. That’s an awesome thing about these sites, they always tell you why they’re not approving your pictures – even if it’s rather vague sometimes.


As of today I still have way more denials than approvals (20 – 6), but most of those are for the same subject repeatedly (I’m relentless – argh!) I’ll admit, I had no business submitting most of these as the pictures were terrible – but I believe in trying. If I were truly one of the cool cats I would still have these pictures to show you, but I’m so not cool – not yet at least – so I only have a few.

The biggest issue I’ve had has been composition. That’s exactly what it sounds like – what the picture consists of. I was a hardcore cropper – I thought the only thing in the picture should be the food. It never crossed my mind that that could be too overwhelming and not at all inviting. “Here’s a big chunk of food – you can’t tell what it is or what you do with it, but enjoy.” Regardless of how scrumptious the food looks there needs to be more depth in the picture. Foodgawker-denials1

My latest denial was my shortbread cookies. The first photo I submitted was – dun, dun, dunnnn, denied! I had cropped it way too much. When I submitted the next it was approved. You can see in the picture that it was just way too much cookie and not enough personality. In the picture that was approved there’s rows and columns of cookies (with a nice blur I must say) and cookie crumbs. The cookies aren’t all up in your face crowding you – they’re set back a bit – inviting you in to take one.

The best tip I can give when it comes to your photo composition is to step away and get some personality in your photo. No one wants food shoved in their face, they need a little distance so their brain can process what it is and how it will taste. Try experimenting with your next food shot. Step back and get a full shot, you can always crop a little just don’t go crazy!

What is your best tip for avoiding the “Composition too tight” denial?

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LisaLisa - March 5, 2013

This is a great informative post. I never even thought about any of this..I just grab my camera and shoot. By the way those shortbread cookies look good. Good Luck!

Michelle - March 5, 2013

Love this. The few I have submitted have gotten this type of denial too, so I will certainly have to work on backing up a bit.

Laura O in AK - March 5, 2013

I am still getting my feet wet with photography and haven’t really graduated to a DLSR camera yet. So much to learn, but each time it gets better. Either one of those cookie pictures made me hungry, though.

Aly Mashrah - March 5, 2013

I really liked both pictures, but now I understand why they would deny the one they did. I think it’s great that you took their tips and made your composition even better. Thanks for the tips!

jenn - March 5, 2013

obviously I’m not a photography critic. I love the picture of the cookies with milk behind it. To me it looks like a complete meal. Those cookies look good

Ashley S - March 5, 2013

Great tip! I’ve been meaning to take photography classes to learn more. My sister is going to give me her old DSLR to start playing around with.

Mel - March 5, 2013

Great tips! I’m always looking for ways to make my photos “pop” more.

Amanda @ Survival Guide by The Working Mom - March 5, 2013

See I am one of those that puts the food right smack dab in your face. I definitely need to experiment more! Although, I have come a long way since first photographing food… I look back and cringe at how horrible the pictures were. lol Hopefully, I can evolve in my food photography skills and look back now and cringe.

Emily @ Baby Dickey - March 9, 2013

This is great! I’ve had my DSLR for way too long without learning how to properly use it. I know I’m guilty of over-cropping, too, I’ll keep this in mind next time!

Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? - March 17, 2013

What a great tip…totally makes sense.

Dana - June 30, 2014

I just started with my DSLR camera and am still figuring out how to use it. I got spoiled and my first picture I submitted was accepted. The next, which I thought was actually better, was denied because composition was too tight. Of course I wanted to explore exactly how to fix that problem so thank you! I get what they are saying and will keep working on it

Cherie @ FoodRecipesEasy - August 24, 2015

Thank you for the GOLDEN tip. Till now, I was of the opinion that food porn sites are meant only for PROS. With your tip, I would like to try out again.

chakris - January 20, 2018

Thanks for sharing your experience with foodgawker. Planning to submit few recipes and this helps

Brianna - February 6, 2018

This is awesome. I’ve tried submitting a few photos and they’ve all been denied. I felt like a failure but it’s refreshing to hear I’m not alone.

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