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Guide to Composition

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." Ansel Adams

I dare Ansel Adams is right, but there are some shortcuts to becoming a good photographers and here is my guide to how.

These rules were not invented by a professor of art, rather they have been observed over time, the human eye for whatever reason simply engages with images in a certain way.

The Rule of Thirds
If there is one thing that will improve your images instantly is learning to place your ‘subject’ off-centre.

Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds girl
rule of thirds john Betjemanrule of thirds stone posts

The Rule of Thirds particularly applies to horizons on landscape shots, try moving the horizon so it sits on the top or bottom third.

The Golden Mean

An extension of the rule of thirds, is the Golden mean, but how you visualise this when taking an image is beyond me. But it’s been used by artist and designers since the pyramids, so there has to be something to it.

Cartier bressongoldenmean

Fill the Frame

fill the frame composition example

If you are trying to convey size, then a human figure can help, but also fill
the frame; if its big, make sure it appears so.

Focal Point

selective focus composition example

Focus is a choice, it can turn an average image into
a visually engaging one.

Frame Within a Frame

frame within a frame

frame withing a frame 2frame within a frame 3

Using a frame within a frame to add depth to your image.

Subject placement

postion to imply movement composition example

Generally leave more room in front of a moving object, to
imply visual movement (The rule of thirds also applies).

Leading Lines

lead in lines composition example

Use lines to draw or direct the eye towards the main subject matter.
Be aware of the corners of your frame and use these as intersection points.


repeated patterns composition example

Patterns are instantly visually engaging.


juxtaposition composition example

Playing with juxtapositions can be a fun game.

forced relationship composition example

Similar to juxtapositions are forced relationships.


shadows and light composition example

Photography is all about light and nothing shows this off more than textures.


Symmetry composition example
What about the rule or thirds? Well
symmetry has its own visual power.

Follow these rules and your photography will improve, but remember,

‘Rules after all, are made to be broken’.

© Nigel Watts 2011-2016 Contact/About