Back to Basics: Photo Composition


placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject.


Basic composition in photography is a guide that will help you improve your skill and will help develop a better eye when shooting an image.

I have seen many photographs loose the essence, and sometimes the message of the photo due to the lack of photo composition. And, although I am a huge believer that there are no “set in stone” rules in photography, I do feel as though there are guidelines that will help you enhance the impact of your images.

I promise to go more in depth into each one individually, but for now here’s a quick list of 10 basic composition rules you may use as your guideline:

#1 Rule of Thirds suggests that important elements of a photograph should cross these grid lines or the intersections of two vertical lines and two horizontal lines equally spaced over your image. Many cameras offer this on their LCD screens.

The idea is to place the important element(s) of the scene along one or more of the lines, or where the lines intersect. Many have the tendency of placing the subject in the middle, but here’s where thinking outside the box comes into place: if you place your subject on either the left or right side of the screen, and you have a beautiful background or even a blurry background, you will bring a beautiful balance to your image.

#2 Symmetry is a subject that I’ve blogged about before: “Symmetry is a vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance”. It is the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis.

The most common places you’ll find great symmetry for photos are buildings, skyscrapers, doors, windows, ceiling patterns,  corridors, garden designs, in viewing palm trees, and even in a body of water’s reflection.

#3 Point of View refers to the position the camera is in when viewing a scene. The common point of view tends to be eye level (which is great for portraits – most of the time), but if you try different points of view like a “bird’s eye view” (looking from top to bottom), or “worm’s eye view” (laying down and shooting upwards), you will find yourself taking great photos from different angles.

#4 Depth of Field (also called focus range or effective focus range) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image (according to Wikipedia).

Depth of field is best captured with a wide lens by factoring three factors: aperture (f-stop), distance from the subject to the camera, and focal length of the lens on your camera.

#5 Framing your shots by using the elements in either the background or foreground that will focus the eye on the subject. You can use an actual frame like a window, window sill, door frame, etc. Or you can use a crowd of people (see sample below)


#6 Leading lines are used to draw the viewer’s eye through a photograph intentionally or unintentionally. Anything with a line can be used as a leading line. I would suggest to allow the lines in your image to have a more natural flow, and focusing onto the main subject or focal point to create a nice movement and flow.DSC_0912-01

#7 Cropping  is the removal of the outer parts of an image to improve framing and accentuate the subject. The idea is simply to crop tight to eliminate any distractions so that the viewer’s primary focus is on the subject.

#8 Background helps accentuate your subject. One thing to be very careful of when choosing your background (especially in the out-of-doors), is to avoid a busy image and to avoid having your subject blend into the background. Balance is key. If you have a lot of elements on your subject, try using a plain background; if you have a busy background, try to have a simple subject.

#9 Balancing Elements can be both formal and informal. Formal being symmetrical, and informal would be asymmetrical. It requires the correct combination of colors, shapes, and areas of light and dark that complement one another – when different parts of a photo command your attention equally, perfect balance is achieved.DSC_0908-01

#10 Juxtaposition is a conceptual contrast that we often shoot without noticing it, particularly when shooting street photography. It happens when there are two or more elements in a scene that either contrast with each other, or one element contributes towards the other to create an overall theme.IMG_4476.JPG

This is a very artistic composition in photography that will make the viewer think deeper, ponder, and try to dissect the image.

Again, these are just guidelines  that should help you take better photos. Guides are meant to help, not control your creativity.

As always, I’d love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.

“In photography, color and composition are inseparable. I see in color” – William Albert Allard


3 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Photo Composition

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