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14 Photo Composition Rules for Great Photography

Did you ever see an impeccably composed photograph and think to yourself, how’d the artist manage to do that? Well, behind every photo there’s a special trick or technique used to get the perfect shot. Photography composition rules have been introduced and used for quite the time now, providing us a base for crafting up great photo compositions. A well-composed photo whether capture from a digital camera or smartphone is visually appealing, and it stands out from other photos.

You can almost always tell when the photographer has put the effort into composition, and when the photo was just a quick snapshot. So, what are these wondrous rules that hold the secret behind amazing photos? Read below to find out 14 photo composition rules that can completely change your photography game!

1. Cropping or Filling the Frame

Sometimes, the background of your photo doesn’t let you properly display the main subject. The surroundings may be busy or overwhelming, which is why you need to crop out the sides. Cropping will allow you to keep the focus on your subject rather than having distractions from the background elements. 

Another way to keep the focus on your subject, particularly for a portrait, is to fill the picture with the subject only. You must shoot the picture with a composition that only incorporates your main subject and its elements, and the background information is not too obvious.

Filling the frame will require you to capture your subject from a closer distance than you normally would. This is a rather simple trick that can really bring out the details of your main subject and keep it as the center of attention.

photo composition rules

2. Golden Triangles

There’s a rule called golden triangles, and it works wonders to create flawlessly composed photos. Triangles and diagonals introduce the concept of “dynamic tension” into the photo, which pertains to the opposing elements of lines and diagonals. 

Straight lines incorporate stability into the photo, while tilts and diagonal lines represent instability, and together, both types of geometric elements create “dynamic” feelings. This composition rule is applied by imagining triangles and diagonals in your photo and splitting the entire picture accordingly.

If you learn how to use this fantastic rule and successfully apply it to your photography techniques, you’ll no doubt, come up with wonderfully composed photos.

3. Use the Entire Subject

To make the most out of your photo’s subject, make sure that you get all of it in the picture. If you don’t get all the parts of your subject, whether it’s a flower, a building, or a person, you can considerably ruin the composition of the picture. Not only that, it’ll take the attention away from the subject. Of course, if you’re planning on keeping only half of the subject in the frame, that’s another story. But the unintentional cropping of the subject looks sloppy and incomplete, so make sure you never make this mistake.

4. The Rule of Thirds

This is by far the most widely known photography rule, and it’s for a good reason. The photography composition rule says you should divide your shot into nine equal square or rectangle-shaped sections by a set of horizontal and horizontal lines.

After you’ve made an imaginary frame, the subject or most essential parts of the picture should be on one line or the meeting point of the line. It enables you to have an optimum composition in your picture when you don’t know where the main subject or parts of the picture should be placed.

The rule of thirds is definitely one you need to get a firm grasp on for wonderfully composed photos. It works exceptionally well for landscape photos since the horizontal lines in the grid match well will the horizontal landscape elements.

5. Using Frames

Using frames is one of the easiest and most effective composition techniques. Frames can help you isolate the subject by hiding any irrelevant information behind them. Frames also draw attention directly to your subject and give your entire photo context and depth. The whole scenario of the image is understood much better with a frame, or even a frame within a frame. This creative technique is simple yet can drastically improve the composition of your photo. 

The frame you use depends entirely on your resources and the kind of look you’re aiming for. A frame can be a bridge, fence, tree trunks, etc. An interesting variation you can try to incorporate is that the frame doesn’t always have to be around the entire picture, only a certain part of the picture can act as a frame and can really help bring out the photo’s depth.

6. Leading Lines and Shapes

To create a well-balanced picture and keep attention towards your subject, you need to use leading lines and shapes. These geometric elements do wonders to guide the eye around the entire picture unconsciously, and subtly. Your photo can include a lot of focal points, or just one. Either way, the positioning of your points and lines is inherent for creating balance in the photo.

 Lines can be used by placing focal points along the line, or if you wish, you can have a primary focus area that the line leads to. You can also use shapes such as triangles or squares to join different focal points and create a guideline as to where the audience’s attention should be.

7. Keep it Simple

The best kinds of photos are those that you can understand at first glance. If you have too much going on in the picture, your audience might not be able to find a focal point and eventually will get bored. An overwhelming image isn’t appealing; however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should only have one focal point. 

The key is to keep one main focal point while allowing room for others but not letting them steal the thunder. You can use as many focal points as you like, but soon the excess amount of information will become overburdening. Keep things simple, and limit your focal points. It will let you create fantastic minimalist themed photos.

8. Pay Attention to Backgrounds

It’s essential not to let your background draw more attention than your subject. It can happen if you have random objects, bright or overexposed areas, or extremely colorful areas in the background. To avoid this, you’ll have to pay attention to the background while shooting. Make sure that there are no unwanted objects in the back, and the settings of your camera will allow for the best light and colors on your subject only.

You can let the background be out of focus as much as possible unless you need the material to add to your entire picture. Wider apertures on a DSLR will let you capture the main subject perfectly while leaving the background blurry. If you end up with unwanted objects or areas after shooting, you can easily Photoshop them out. If you don’t pay attention to the background of your photos, you can let the main focus of the picture go unnoticed.

9. Symmetry, Patterns, and Textures

Paying attention to find some symmetry, pattern, or appealing textures in your photo can really help you get a perfect shot. Patterns give more impact to your picture and add creativeness. Same goes with textures, they’re a great way to liven up the shot and give it an artsy effect. Patterns and textures are proven to draw more attention and make photos seem more attractive. Whether they’re regular or irregular patterns and textures, they’ll be sure to liven up the scene.

Symmetry can be found in natural and manmade things, and you can use it to your advantage. Incorporating symmetry within your photo is a great way to keep things minimalist yet dynamic. You can use all kinds of orientations to include symmetry, such as vertical, horizontal, and even circular. There are so many options when it comes to taking symmetrical shots.

10. Depth of Photos

A picture is composed of three main parts regarding depth; the foreground, middle-ground, and background. Using all three parts in your photo will help you achieve depth and perception. It’ll help you draw the viewer’s eye through the entire picture, making the elements more appealing and interesting. 

Take note not to make your picture seem off balance by adding too much sense of depth. Some objects or areas in the middle-ground or background can draw attention away from the main subject in the foreground. Similarly, you don’t want something striking in the foreground to draw attention away from a beautiful background scene.

11. Balance Elements

You can balance elements in your photo to create the perfect photo composition. Balancing is tricky at first, but when you get it right, you can snap amazing pictures instantly. Using the rule of thirds, you can place your subject away from the center of the photo, which will allow you to create a more interesting scene. But this can leave a lot of negative space in the picture.

To fix the problem, you can add another element on the opposite side of the subject, thus balancing the photo. The subject and the additional element should work together to compliment each other and create an appealing scene. Just be careful that your secondary object doesn’t throw off the attention from the main subject.

12. The Left to Right Rule

The left to right rule lets the elements in your photo flow and depicts movement. One theory states that an image is read from left to right, similar to reading a book. The motion in the frame should show movement from left to right.

Since this rule is based on language, and the reading direction of language varies in regions, there is no sure shot way to depict movement direction. You can also show movement from right to left. Make sure you leave enough space in front of the animate object. Space will allow viewers to perceive that the subject is moving into the area.


13. Changing Viewpoint

The place you shoot your photo contributes to the viewpoint. Viewpoint is necessary to consider because a photo taken from an extremely common angle won’t be very creative. To add more interest to your photos, consider thinking out of the box and finding different angles to photograph your subject. 

Instead of shooting from eye level, you can try shooting from up high. Similarly, instead of shooting from above, you can try getting the perspective from a shallow height. Try shooting from behind an object that would be least expected. These various possibilities can help you create more exciting and appealing photos. It’ll allow your pictures to stand out from the rest.

14. Negative Space

Negative space is bound to occur when you are shooting your subject. You just have to make good use of it! You can also purposely add negative space to your photo. Although it contradicts the notion of frame-filling, negative space can be used to your advantage to get amazing shots.

If filling the space doesn’t work for you, try leaving a lot of negative space to add a minimalist and artsy look to your photo. The area around your subject can prove to be more attractive and keeps your photography simple. This tactic lets the audience focus entirely on the subject.

These are some best tips you’ll come across for creating amazingly composed photos. There are so many ways to experiment with composition phtography tricks and techniques. Try a combination of a few of the mentioned rules, so you can capture dynamic and attractive shots.

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