No matter what type of camera you have—smartphone, point-and-shoot, DSLR, mirrorless camera, etc.—learning photography composition rules will only improve the quality of the pictures you take.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite composition rules to use on your next shoot. You don’t need to memorize these rules or strictly follow them, but keeping them in mind will help you to expand your photography style.
Always use the Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is like the Golden Rule of photography composition—it’s one of the single most important things you can learn.
The idea here is to split your shot into a 3×3 grid (similar to a tic-tac-toe board) and place the most important pieces of your shot along the vertical and horizontal lines and/or where the lines intersect. Keeping certain elements of your shot within in these lines will add balance to the photo.
If you’re having trouble imaging these lines, don’t worry. Some cameras will have a grid setting that you can add to your preview pane. And for smartphone users there are a few grid apps you can use for your phone’s camera, too.
Since Rule of Thirds is such an important composition topic, you’ll definitely want to check out this article for more in-depth information.
Frame the scene
Frames aren’t just for printed photos—you can also use elements within your photo to create the appearance of a frame or border. A row of flowers, a curving road, or a line of shadows that define the edges of your photo could make for a nice frame. Get creative and see if you can spot something that will highlight the edges of your shot.
Follow the leading lines
Think of leading lines as a way to pull viewers into the scene. Are there lines in your shot that you can use to your advantage? They could be straight or jagged, curved or broken—but capturing them at a certain angle will add a whole new layer of intrigue to your photo.
Patterns and textures are always interesting to look at—they’re like a puzzle that the mind wants to work out. When you’re setting up for a shot, see if there are any interesting patterns to capture—like a windswept pile of leaves or a series of ripples spanning across a serene lake.
Get creative with color
There is so much you can do with color in your photos. Don’t feel like you can only use warm or matching colors in a single shot—play around with it! If you have an ocean vista that’s mostly soothing blues, try to include a small pop of red into the shot. Snapping a pic of bright red sandals washing up on the shore would make for an interesting storytelling technique.
Play with the background
While it’s not the star of your photo shoot, the background plays an important role in the success of your picture. A good rule of thumb would be to balance the subject of your photo with a background that will highlight the subject without stealing its thunder. A good example of this would be taking a photo of a peacock against the white wash of an old country barn or snapping a photo of a wrought-iron polished statue sitting in the middle of a wild-flower garden.
Find a unique point of view
Don’t fall into the habit of only shooting from standing height—instead, move outside the box. That may mean climbing up a ladder or a tree or lying down in the dirt. Expand your horizons and you’ll start to see some really unique photos as a result.
Try, try, and try again
We encourage you to try every tip listed above—together, separately, or in combinations. The more you try and the more photos you take, then the better you’ll get as a photographer. Never stop trying new angles and techniques!
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