There are no unbreakable rules when it comes to how you should compose your photographs After all, who likes rules except for your old school principal or heads of H.R. departments? There are however, several guidelines you can use to help improve the composition of your photos. In this tutorial, I’ve listed 20 of these guidelines along with examples of each. I’ve started with the most basic ones and finished with some of the more advanced composition techniques.
First of all we have to define what is meant by ‘composition’. Composition refers to the way the various elements in a scene are arranged within the frame. As I’ve already mentioned, these are not hard and fast rules but guidelines. That said, many of them have been used in art for thousands of years and they really do help achieve more attractive compositions. I find that I usually have one or more of these guidelines in the back of my mind as I’m setting up a shot.
We’ll start with probably the most well known composition technique: The Rule of Thirds.
1. Rule of Thirds
So I’ve just told you that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to composition and then the first thing I write about is the ‘rule’ of thirds. In my defence, I didn’t come up with the name. The rule of thirds is very simple. You divide the frame into 9 equal rectangles, 3 across and 3 down as illustrated below. Many camera manufacturers have actually included the capability to display this grid in live view mode. Check your camera’s manual to see how to turn on this feature.
The idea is to place the important element(s) of the scene along one or more of the lines or where the lines intersect. We have a natural tendency to want to place the main subject in the middle. Placing it off centre using the rule of thirds will more often than not lead to a more attractive composition.
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