6 awesome tips to improve your composition in photography

6 awesome tips to improve your composition in photography

We are constantly on a look out for ways to make out photographs interesting. Instead of worrying about finding interesting subjects we should be focused more on making our subjects more interesting changing our perspective on how we perceive them.

By following compositional guidelines to capture your photographs you will effortlessly make your photos interesting to look at. Plus point of following compositional guideline is that majority of the time they take care of the negative space, keep in mind that I am saying majority of the time NOT all the time.
tips for better composition

So you may already know what composition is but let’s define it one more time. Composition is an arrangement of objects within a frame that forms a harmonious whole.

Now, let’s go through different sets of compositional guidelines. You may already be using these to compose your frames but may not be aware of it.

1. Rule of Thirds

Center of interest is placed at an intersection of tic-tac-toe line on the top third, bottom third or side thirds of the photograph. The subject of interest is not placed in the center, because too often we tend to place our subject in the middle of the frame which causes our overall frame to look dull and trite.

rule of thirds

rule of thirds

As long as the main subject DOES NOT ENTIRELY FALL under the area designated by the red dots (center square) you will be following rule of thirds.

Rule of third example

As you can see this in this image above, the subject of interest is not placed in the center, the negative space on the top and on the right is harmoniously coordinated because of the placement of the main object. Rule of thirds is just a guideline to help photographers when they are uncertain as to how to place elements on the frame in a cordial manner.

Example of rule of third

In the above image the subject of interest is again not centered and this gives the image a different perspective. You can see that the negative space takes care of itself when you follow the guideline.

rule of third in vertical landscape

When taking photos of landscape what you can do to make your image more pleasing is to avoid placing the horizon in the center. The above image is a perfect example, you can see that the photographer left a significant amount of space above the horizon, the negative space in this image gives depth to the image, provokes a sense of freedom and this is what makes this image interesting to look at. We do not know if the photographer followed a guideline while taking this image but as you can see the subject of interest does not fall in the center and follows rule of thirds guideline. And again, in this image the negative space is taken care of very well.

2. Leading Lines

In this type of composition, secondary objects in the frame lead to the subject of interest or center of interest. You can use lines to lead a way for the eye to follow to the main subject.

On the image below you can see that the stone fence acts as a leading line towards the center focus of the image.

Leading lines in landscape

The negative space in the foreground adds interest to the image, it leads the viewer to the main focus of the frame which is the man walking farther away.

Leading line is another compositional guideline that helps photographer in composing a strong and interesting photograph. Leading lines doesn’t have to be straight they can make up very own strong subject. Leading lines helps find the main subject and demonstrate direction of motion. Leading lines provide perspective and a sense of depth. Leading lines are connectors along which the eye travels effortlessly. They provide direction connection and motion.

3. Framing

In framing, secondary objects are used to frame or surround the center of interest.

girl framed at the door

Framing is a compositional guideline that makes the center of object more conspicuous. In the image above, the door acts as a means of framing surrounding the girl. Here is a point to note, framing is one of those cases where negative space does not fall into place automatically. In this image, the photographer had to be thoughtful about whether to take out the entire shot of the door neglecting the negative space created by the stairs or take half shot of the door and include the stairs in the frame, just like it is right now. This image would still follow compositional guideline of framing even If cropped at the area designated by blue line but this image would lose its beauty without the negative space created by the stairs. Thus, you can see that negative space had to be taken care of by the photographer himself.

framing of a subject

Above  is another image that is a good example of framing. The singer is framed by the stage ceiling and the out of focus wires on the foreground.


4. Simplicity

In this composition the photographer moves in closer to the subject and selects an angle so that the unwanted space is eliminated from the frame. Basically, there is one subject of interest with a non-distracting background. The idea is to removing all the distracting elements from the frames that doesn’t complement the point of interest. While you are taking image make sure you are fully aware of the background and all the elements that falls in the frame and they are directly or indirectly helping the viewer’s eye to reach the point of interest.


5. Balance

Every elements in a frame has a certain graphical compositional weight.Be it a mountain , a person or anything that occupies a part of image.  If you consider you images to be a see saw , the elements on the left and right(top and bottom) side seek for the balance which is also called compositional balance. The composition may be symmetrical or asymmetrical.


compositional balance

Both image above are the same image but the helicopter has been removed in photoshop.  If you compare the two images the idea of compositional balance may somewhere make sense to you. The second image look more balanced then the first one. The soldier at the land , the ladder , soldier standing at the block and  looking up guides the viewer eyes  to the helicopter at the top. The white empty part is  now with a dark tone helicopter  contrasting to each other. The contrasting tonal range has helped the image with more attention , drama and balance.

6. Geometric Placement

Objects in geometric composition are placed in different configuration such as square, triangle etc. Geometric placement makes the image pleasing to look at. Camera angle make a huge difference while taking images of an obect with geometric shape. Below is the image where square has been used and leading lines lead the viewer attention to the subject.

geometric shape

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About author

Anup Ghimire
Anup Ghimire 60 posts

Anup ghimire is a self learned Photographer/Designer and recently graduated in multimedia technologies from London metropolitan university.Traveling is something he loves the most after photography. You can see some of his photos at his facebook photography page https://www.facebook.com/intomyviewfinder

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