Learning photography composition guidelines will only increase the quality of the photographs you take, regardless of the type of camera you use (smartphone, point-and-shoot, DSLR, mirrorless camera, etc.). We’ve collected a list of our favorite composition rules for you to try out on your next session. You don’t have to memorize or precisely adhere to these criteria, but keeping them in mind will enable you to broaden your photographic approach.
- Cropping / Filling the Frame
If your shot is at risk of losing impact due to a cluttered background/surroundings, crop in tight around your main point of focus, removing the background so that all attention is focused on your main subject. This is especially useful for portraits when you want to capture something more intimate and focused, or when you’re shooting in a busy place where what’s surrounding them would just be a distraction. Filling the frame could mean capturing them from the waist up, or it could mean getting just their face for added impact. Patterns are another topic that you should fill the frame with while photographing, carefully aligning it to guarantee it’s straight.
- Recognize the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds, the most fundamental of all photographic laws, entails dividing your shot into nine equal portions using a set of vertical and horizontal lines. With the imagined frame in place, center the most significant element(s) in your shot on one of the lines or where the lines intersect. It’s a good approach for landscapes since you may place the horizon on one of the horizontal lines that run through the bottom and top of the image, while vertical subjects (trees, for example) can be placed on one of the two vertical lines.
- Use color to your advantage.
You can accomplish so much with color in your images. Don’t limit yourself to merely using warm or complementary colors in a single shot—have fun with it! Try to incorporate a modest pop of red into a shot of an ocean panorama that is primarily peaceful blues. Photographing bright red sandals washing up on the beach might be a fascinating storytelling approach.
- Utilize Lead in Lines and Shapes
Because our eyes are pulled involuntarily along lines in images, thinking about how, where, and why you place lines in your photos will impact how your audience perceives it. A road, for example, beginning at one end of the shot and snaking its way to the other will draw the viewer’s attention through the scene. You can have multiple focal points along your line or just have one main region concentrate at the end of your line that the eye will naturally go toward. Shapes can also be used in this manner; for example, envision a triangle and place three points of focus at the ends of each point where the lines of the shape meet.
- Experiment with the background
While it is not the focus of your photo shoot, the background is critical to the success of your image. A solid rule of thumb is to balance the topic of your photograph with a background that will showcase the subject without overpowering it. A nice illustration would be photographing a peacock against the white wash of an old country barn or photographing a wrought-iron polished statue in the center of a wild-flower garden.
We advise you to try each of the suggestions above, either individually or in combination. The more you experiment and take images, the better you’ll get as a photographer. Never stop experimenting with new angles and techniques.