Good composition comes from trying to tell a story with an image, leading the viewers eye, and making sure that the subject of your photo is evident. These are all things you will instinctively learn as practice moves your photography closer to perfection with every shot, but there are also some handy guidelines on composition that will help you get started on the right path.

Rule of Thirds


This is by far the most common composition technique. Simply divide your shot into 9 equal parts using two vertical and two horizontal lines, and place the most important elements of your shot along these lines, or where they meet.

Repetition and Symmetry


By focussing on either one of these, you will immediately create balance and interest in a picture. If the repetition is moving away from you, it is a great opportunity to play around with the depth of field, and close cropping of a symmetrical subject will add an element of intensity to the image.

Leading Lines


Our eyes are naturally drawn to lines, and therefore you can use a line to lead your viewer to the subject of your photo. Generally speaking, the closer you are to a line, the more effective the composition is. Obvious lines include: Roads, Railways and Rivers.

But leading lines are everywhere, you can even create them yourself, here are some ideas:


  • Walls

  • Curbs

  • Painted Lines

  • Thread

  • A scarf blowing in the wind

  • Telegraph lines

  • Marching ants

  • A trickle of water

  • Drawing in the sand

  • A branch


Don’t forget
A line does not have to be straight, look for meandering rivers, zig-zagging ravines and roads with chicanes worthy of a race track to add interest to a picture

Framing


To understand the best way to frame a picture, imagine that you are separating the subject of the photo from the outside world. This can be achieved by shooting through something such as an archway, window or even a hole in a wall, or by using the edges of other objects to naturally lead the viewers eye to the subject. Remember that the frame does not need to be complete; the edge of a building, a tree, or even another person just out of shot can be an effective frame.


Remember
Portrait view is for portraits and landscape view is for landscapes because the lines of the subject are in keeping with the framing. However, a waterfall may suit a portrait layout best, and a figure reclining on a sofa may work better in landscape.

Angles


Generally speaking, avoid taking pictures from whatever angle they are usually viewed from - get down on the floor or stand on a chair and get a different perspective altogether! The angle you choose can dramatically alter the story the image tells and the feel of the final photo. A shot from above can make the subject seem oppressed or less threatening, whereas taken from below can give the subject an air of dominance or importance. Placing your camera on the ground will add emphasis to the foreground, whereas a higher vantage point can create a voyeuristic quality.


Top Tip
When photographing children and pets, get down on their level, not only will the photo be more interesting because of the unusual point of view, you will be emotionally closer to your subject, and get a better picture as a result.

Lots of people want to know about the rules of composition, but if the truth be told, I’m a firm believer that some rules are there to be broken. Once you have got to grips with these tips, make an effort to break them and see what your experimentation brings!

Images courtesy of Louie, Ambrose and Jase



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Comments
posted February 9th, 2013
Very cool! Great post.
posted February 9th, 2013
thanks for this post.. learned some new things!!
posted February 9th, 2013
Good article, I knew these concepts, but its good to be reminded of the tried and true basics. There were some great examples and extra information that I will think about when I'm working on my next 365 shot. Thanks for sharing!!

posted February 9th, 2013
Thank you for the article.
posted February 9th, 2013
Great tips. Thank you.
posted February 9th, 2013
thanks always useful kerry
posted February 10th, 2013
Thanks for the tips. The obvious is never obvious.
posted February 10th, 2013
This is a helpful post - thank you for all the tips!
posted February 10th, 2013
Great tips! Leading Lines by Jase ( @jase_h ) is still one of my favorites!
posted February 11th, 2013
Thank you - helpful and succinct
posted February 12th, 2013
Wonderful tips!
posted February 13th, 2013
Very helpful tips! Thank you.
posted February 13th, 2013
thanks so much :)
posted February 13th, 2013
Kaz
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you :-)
posted February 16th, 2013
Great tips! I'm inspired now!
posted February 19th, 2013
That'll help a lot! Thanks!
posted June 12th, 2013
Great tips! Thanks!
posted July 15th, 2013
Thanks for the tips!
posted December 21st, 2014
I joined this project/site a few days ago and articles like this make me so glad i did! Thank You for all the great tips!
posted July 11th, 2015
Thank you for this post, very helpful.
posted October 29th, 2016
Just what I need, thank you.
posted September 19th, 2017
Thanks very much, an interesting post for a novice who would like to improve.
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