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Photography Composition Tips

Composition is simply the process where you decide the arrangement of subjects in your frame. Composition is the truly creative side of photography and it is great fun to learn the rules and then break them!

To improve your photographs, look at the following points and video and put the ideas into practice.

  1. 1. Consider your subject – what you choose to photograph is the first step to taking great pictures. Keep on the lookout for interesting subjects that catch your eye, the more interesting your subject the better the photo

  2. 2. Rule of thirds – try positioning your subject off-centre in your frame. Placing key elements along imaginary lines that dissect your frame into vertical and horizontal thirds make for pleasing images

    Georgy Khabarov, The Drowned World
    Positioned off-center with space to paddle into and small in the frame all add interest and a focal point to this image whilst the colour of the canoe brings perfect contrast to the water.

  3. 3. Leading lines – natural lines such as pathways, train tracks, walls or fences can be used to draw the viewer into an image. It’s also great if there is an interesting subject towards the vanishing point to focus on

    Manuel Teixeira, Manhã submersa
    Crossing diagonals add a strong structure to this image; the tracks provide leading lines that draw your eye into the frame towards the two figures that give a sense of scale.

  4. 4. Framing – placing your subject within a natural frame such as a doorway. Trees, branches or an arch can also serve to focus the attention on your subject

    Mr Tom La, Into the light!
    This photo shows how a framed subject can really strengthen your composition. Using the light from the bridge opening and shooting against a dark background focus all the attention on the subject. Also note how Mr Tom La has shot with the subject to the left and space to travel into.

  5. 5. Fill the frame – make your subject large in the frame when shooting wildlife and portraits. Either zoom in or get close to your subject to eliminate dead space around your subject

  6. 6. Space to move – moving subjects are best shot with space in front of them. For example when taking a picture of a car try placing it towards the side of the frame so the vehicle has space to travel into

  7. 7. Diagonals – Diagonal lines intersecting your frame create a sense of drama and movement. Typically wide-angle shots are more likely to have diagonals in them due to the wider perspective. Also try pointing the camera up or down to accentuate these lines

    Mr CYRIL NAMIECH, Soupe campagnarde
    Two diagonals, one made by the angle of the boat and another by the strip of green algae running through the frame provide a strong backdrop to this image. Shooting from above and placing the subject slightly off-centre add to this composition.

  8. 8. Change your viewpoint – add extra interest to your images by changing your shooting position. Try getting down on one knee or putting the camera on the floor for low perspectives; alternatively hold your camera high in the air or look for a vantage point for a top down view

  9. 9. Texture, pattern and detail – Whether you are shooting landscapes, nature, architecture or action, get close in and look for texture and detail to add another dimension to your images. Colour contrasts, symmetry and patterns can be found in almost anything, keep your eyes peeled for these details

    Mr Paulo Dias, lisboa bela com encanto
    We love the way the frame is full to the brim of vibrant colours and the steps leading from the scene beautifully frame the pink blossom of the tree. Vertical lines dominate this image creating a feeling of stability and note how Mr Paulo Dias has placed the leading line of the alley slightly to the left of centre.

  10. 10. Sense of scale –Adding scale to your images to emphasise your scene and add a focal point. This can be particularly successful in landscape shots. Human figures are ideal for this as they are immediately recognisable to the viewer.

Watch our composition video here:

Try picking a subject and see how many different compositions you can take using the 10 points listed above. Then take 10 more pictures of the same subject breaking the rules, for example placing the subject dead centre of the frame or making it really small in the frame by zooming out as far as you can go. Don’t forget to take both horizontal and vertical images and see which works best. You will soon see that there are endless ways to compose your images and as well as discover which composition techniques create interesting photographs.

Feeling inspired? Try out your composition picture and upload to our Gallery, we may use your picture in the next article.