The Beginners Guide to better photos - Composition

In the pursuit of better images, whether you are shooting on a smartphone, a DSLR, or the most expensive cameras in the world, we will be recapping the fundamentals of great images, starting with composition.

What does composition mean in photography? Photo composition is how a photographer arranges visual elements within their frame. “It's a pleasing organization of objects within your rectangle,” says photographer Adam Long. -

Just as a composer of a piece of music has complete control, over what they put down on paper, photographers have the same luxury when capturing an image. However, there are certain guides or rules that generally (not always!) should be followed to stop the image, or piece of music, from becoming a complete confusing mess!

You may have the best camera, the best lighting, and an interesting subject, but if your composition is messy or confusing, it will leave the viewer wanting. Composition is one element of your photography that once you nail it, can turn your okay images into amazing ones!

In this article, we will be reviewing some of these guides, and when they are most appropriate for your images!

The 'rule' of thirds..

This is one of the first techniques that people think about when composition in photography is brought up. It enables the eye of the viewer to focus on the subject of the image (the part of the image that you took that image for!) If you place your subject in one of the thirds of the frame, it best draws the eye of the viewer. let us have a look at an example

This image of the beautiful bride Emilia has one subject that I want to draw the viewer's eye too, can you guess? Yes, the bride herself! As you can see in this image, she is placed in the first third of the image and is quite natural to the eye, with the foreground blurred and the background the same to eliminate distraction.

Take a look at this crop of the same image. Here the rule of thirds is not applied, and while it is not the worst image, it simply does not have the same effect as the photo above. Her head is too close to the top of the crop and she is too centered and therefore less dynamic.

Imagine drawing a grid on your images (you will see this grid on your camera or mobile when shooting). Placing your subject or focus point along a line or where lines intersect, your image will become more pleasing to the eye. This is one of the oldest and well-known techniques in photography and many seasoned photographers will use this unconsciously.

See this technique with this image of the stunning Aimee

Leading Lines ..

Leading lines are a great way to draw the viewers' attention to the focus or subject of the image, as we can see in this particular image, the gentleman on the bridge is the clear subject, we can tell this aided by the bridge itself, leading us visually into the image and directly to the subject. This effect can be done in a number of ways, a great way to start is by using things like roads and bridges that give natural leading lines, or even a line of trees or the edge of a building! Remember the leading lines can lead anywhere, it doesn’t always have to be like our example image below!

- an example of leading lines (unsplash image)

Negative space..

The use of a lot of negative space in an image will always draw the eye to the subject, as the subject is pretty much the only thing there! Incredibly effective for clean images or aesthetically pleasing images. This simple cup of coffee is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and the focus is completely drawn to the form of the cup and the stark contrast of the black coffee with the white background. Bravo!


Our eyes are predisposed to spot symmetry in all we see. So when you see an opportunity to capture this in an image you will automatically up your game in terms of image composition! Have a look the next time you are out and about for small things that capture your eye for their symmetry, capture these! A symmetrical image is a balanced image. “Chefs kiss!”

Horizon -

Like leading lines and the rule of thirds, horizon placement in an image is paramount for making it pleasing to the eye, like the image was taken with purpose as opposed to thrown together. There is nothing more off-putting than when a horizon in an image is not straight. (If you don’t believe me, look for it yourself, once you see it, you can’t unsee it!) Having the Horizon centered or on a third are both effective techniques!

Non portrait images used with thanks from
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