Photography isn’t just about taking a camera and capturing random shots with it. A good picture tells a story to the spectator and touches on the emotional level.
And good composition allows a photographer to achieve that. But what is composition in photography, and how can you learn it? Well, there are tons of things to talk about when it comes to this particular topic.
To help you get a better understanding of it, let’s go over everything you need to know about composition in photography.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Composition?
- 2 Why is Composition Important in Photography?
- 3 Composition Concepts and Principles
- 4 Tips for Finding the Right Composition
- 5 Composition Techniques
- 6 Common Composition Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- 7 How to Improve Composition in Editing
- 8 Some Other Ways to Develop the Composition Skills in Photography
- 8.1 Rule of Thirds
- 8.2 Centered Composition and Symmetry
- 8.3 Foreground Interest and Depth
- 8.4 Frame within the Frame
- 8.5 Leading Lines
- 8.6 Diagonals and Triangles
- 8.7 Patterns and Textures
- 8.8 Rule of Odds
- 8.9 Fill the Frame
- 8.10 Leave Negative Space
- 8.11 Simplicity and Minimalism
- 8.12 Isolate the Subject
- 8.13 Change your Point of View
- 8.14 Look for Particular Color Combinations
- 8.15 Rule of Space
- 8.16 Left to Right Rule
- 8.17 Balance Elements in the Scene
- 8.18 Juxtaposition
- 8.19 Golden Triangles
- 8.20 Golden Ratio
- 8.21 Reflections and Dynamic Foreground
- 8.22 Focused Light
- 8.23 Natural Framing
- 8.24 Zoom In (Or Out)
- 8.25 Shoot Vertical
- 8.26 Combine Composition Techniques
- 8.27 Do Your Research and Plan Your Shoot
- 9 Common Problems You Might Face
- 9.1 Sloppy or Busy Edges
- 9.2 Uneven Horizon Line
- 9.3 Not Making the Subject the Focus of the Frame
- 9.4 Subject Leaving the Frame
- 9.5 The Scene Feels Unbalanced
- 9.6 The Scene is Too Busy
- 9.7 The Depth of Field isn’t Right
- 9.8 The Subject is Too Centered
- 9.9 My Foreground is Boring
- 9.10 My Subject Feels Cramped Within the Frame
- 10 Final Thoughts
What is Composition?
The composition is the proper arrangement of the elements of your picture that helps to elevate what you’re trying to express.
It is a powerful thing that helps to emphasize the core message of a picture and presents that to the spectator. You see, not all the images are exceptional. The fantastic ones usually have a brilliant composition.
If you are into photography, you must get better at the composition to take the skill at a whole new level. It’s going to take some time to develop, but with the proper techniques, you’ll be able to learn it with ease.
Why is Composition Important in Photography?
As mentioned earlier, an exceptional photo has a good composition behind it. Without it, the picture has no value anywhere.
If you have good composition, you can turn even the dullest objects into beautiful photos. And if you are someone who wants to make taking pictures a way of living, you must develop the skill of composition of your images.
This is the secret ingredient that’s going to make you stand out from others. It’s undoubtedly the most crucial thing you need to focus on and grow.
Composition Concepts and Principles
There are so many things that you need to consider that impacts your photographs. That can get you overwhelmed very fast. You should always break it down to chunks to learn it faster and better. The seven following concepts and principles will help you to do it.
Once you got those in check, you’d be good to go.
Tips for Finding the Right Composition
Let’s have a look at some tips that’ll help you find the right composition for your picture.
Center Your Subject: You should center your subject to get a better shot. That would emphasize the details and make the photo stand out more.
Look for Cemetery: Consider looking for a cemetery in the pictures. That would make your photos more presentable to all.
Look for Triangle: Triangles make it super easy to make the picture better. It helps to give a premium feel to it nonetheless.
Consider Framing: Framing would help to make subjects stand out more in photos. That’s why you should frame the picture in a proper way to get the best shots.
Keep the Background Simple: Sometime, the background will get in your way of taking a fantastic picture. In that case, keeping the background simple is the best bet.
Using some techniques is the best way to spice up things. The right ones will significantly improve the composition. Let’s have a look at a few of those.
Simplicity: Getting the fanciest shot might not be the best idea. A simple photo can be a strong one. That’s why you should try to keep simplicity in your photos.
Leading Lines: The leading lines help to give more profound shots. If you consider the prominent lines in the right way, your photos will look so much better.
Rule of Third: This is by far the most crucial thing that you need to consider in composition. This one thing will take your photos and make them look professional.
Common Composition Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes and how to fix them.
The Gaze: It’s a common issue that the subject’s eye line is making a negative impact on the photo. He should be looking at the objects that help to lift the picture. Just be mindful that how his gaze is impacting the image, and you’ll be good to go.
Isolation: That’s another item where most people stumble. The subject and the background should not be on top of another. Try to get a shot where both are complementing each other.
Tangent Line: Your subjects should not mend with the tangent lines. They should be wide apart for getting the texture and a beautiful photo.
How to Improve Composition in Editing
Post-processing image is very crucial when it comes to better composition. That alone can change up the whole game and make your photos look gorgeous.
And the beautiful thing about this is that you don’t have to spend a lot. There are editing tools that come free of cost or just in a few bucks.
Use those to crop and adjust the picture first. Then you can do so much extra to make it even better. The possibilities are endless there.
Some Other Ways to Develop the Composition Skills in Photography
Now you have a lot of information to practice. Let’s go over a couple of more methods you can use to improve the skill even further.
The first thing you need to understand is that choosing an interesting subject is vital. You should not move to any other steps before you do that right.
You should always try out a different point of view while shooting a photo. That will help you to spice up even the elemental images.
Then play with the angles a bit to find what works best. That will develop the skill of picture composition over time.
Rule of Thirds
The first thing you need to focus on is the rule of thirds. It’s going to help you so much in capturing the best symmetrical image possible.
It split’s the screen into 3×3 parts. That helps you to get more accuracy in the picture.
You know that the alignment issues can mess up the whole picture. The rule of thirds can help you fix that issue in just an instance. Especially for beginners, learning the rule of thirds is crucial.
It’s going to help so much to develop the composition of your photography.
Centered Composition and Symmetry
Centered composition and symmetry are critical for photography. Without the proper use of these two, your photos will not be presentable.
So, how can you do that in a way that gives better composition in your photos? Well, you have to start focusing on the subject and keep it in the middle. The proper symmetry is crucial for your pictures.
Being mindful of these two would help you develop the skills automatically. It’s all about awareness and practice. Now that you know what to do, everything else will get easier as you practice. Just be sure to focus on it while you are taking the shots.
Foreground Interest and Depth
The foreground is the no.1 thing that can make your photography composition superb or worse. That’s why you must learn to utilize it properly.
Choose a foreground that sparks interest in you. That way, it’s more likely to be interesting for other people as well. That will help you elevate your pictures.
Other than that, be on the lookout for new objects in the foregrounds. Even the smallest of objects can make a huge difference.
Frame within the Frame
The first rule of photography is to keep everything within the frame. The frame within the frame method can help to direct the spectator to focus on wherever you want them to focus.
This skill is vital to develop and you must spend some time learning it. If you can pull out the frame within the frame, it’s going to help you make the photos stand out from the rest easily.
So, whether you’re a pro photographer or starting just out, try to develop this particular skill. It’s going to take your photography composition to a whole new level.
If you look at some of the professional photos, you’ll see that they all focus on the leading line. It is the element of a picture that gives a professional vibe to it.
The leading lines are the point of frames that blend with the subjects. If you can do it properly, it’ll create a comforting image that’s super nice to keep looking.
Try positioning the subject in twine with the lines from now on. With enough practice, you’ll be able to get it in no time.
Diagonals and Triangles
These are other tools for the better composition of photography. You can add those to your skillset, and it’s going to help you get variety in your photos as well.
You see, the simple photos are ok. But human eyes get bored by looking at the same thing over and over. To spice things up a bit, you can put some diagonals and triangles to your photos.
Making these small shifts will increase your photo’s viability by a ton. So, next time you’re shooting pics, make sure to tilt your point of vision a bit. Or, get a triangle leading line if you can. That’s going to work like magic.
Patterns and Textures
Human eyes look for patterns in everything—those calm the mind. Thus, you should put some patterns in your picture to get the same effects.
Also, putting some texture will help the picture to be catchier. There are numerous amounts of photos out there. Not every single one is interesting. And that’s your job as a photographer to make it more exciting.
And adding some patterns and textures will help you to do that. Just make sure not to overdo it and keep it simple as well. That’s a surefire way to ruin the whole picture.
Rule of Odds
Most beginner-level photographers make the common mistake of staying in a box. That limits their potential and creativity.
Adding something odd will help to make your photo stand out instantly. That bold move is a crucial tool of composition in photography, if not the best technique.
You see, you must step out of the box and go beyond the rules. You must understand that there are no rules in photography that can restrain you. Keeping that in mind, be sure to add whatever sparks interest in you in the photos.
Fill the Frame
Filling the frame is an essential part of your photography composition. Filling the frame means to take the object and make it more prominent in the whole image, giving more priority than other purposes.
You have to keep in mind that the subject is the most critical part of your photo shooting. Everything else comes next. That’s why you can’t make a picture more about the environment or background rather than the object.
Getting clear on that will help you with your photography composition.
Leave Negative Space
Negative spaces are the spaces that you don’t want to stay for a bit. It’s entirely purposeless to stay there. Instead, you should search for a good/positive space that complements and helps you in focusing on your photography.
Use the area of your focus to determine the positive space for you. Most of the time, the place that gives lighter, proper angle, and such, is a positive space for you.
You should leave the negative space and move to these areas to get the best shots.
Simplicity and Minimalism
You see, nobody likes to see a too busy picture with a bunch of random stuff in it. A good photographer keeps it simple and minimum. That is all you need basically for good photography. Not always being fancy is the best way to go.
Try to keep the smallest number of objects in the frame. That will make it easier and more relaxing for the spectator’s eyes.
Besides, that helps to lift the subjects even more as there are not too many distractions there.
Isolate the Subject
Isolating the subject is undoubtedly the most crucial thing you need to learn in photo composition.
As mentioned earlier, the subject is the most vital thing in your image. But how are you going to make it stand out from the rest? That is where isolating comes into play.
It’s not that hard to do that. You just need to create a bit distance between the subject and the background while shooting the picture. That would be all you need to do for isolation.
Also, be sure to use the proper focal length for that. Any imbalance might distort the picture.
Change your Point of View
It is one of the most natural things you can do for better composition in your photography. Changing the point of view will create a night and day difference to your picture.
The best way to do that is to go with the feel. What feels ok is usually good, nonetheless. Trusting your instinct will help so much to give you a better composition in your photos.
Also, it will develop your skill as you do it more and more. So, you should definitely use that to your advantage from now on.
Look for Particular Color Combinations
Best photographers give so much importance to the color combinations. And it’s now without any reason.
Color combination is vital to present the photos to the spectators that makes sense. If you got it wrong, it’s going to ruin the whole thing.
To develop that, you should look at other beautiful photos taken by professionals. That would help to build a foundation of which color goes with which.
And then, when you go to take photos, that will show up and help you get better color combinations. And what’s great is that the particular color combinations will always work together no matter what.
Rule of Space
The photos of subjects not looking at the camera directly are getting very popular these days. That’s often known as the rule of space.
As the subject doesn’t look into the camera, there should be some space to emphasize his/her gaze. It’s crucial to give some space to release the tension that’s created by the eye line.
Left to Right Rule
This one is a simple composition rule of photography that can make a big difference. You especially need it if you are taking pictures of two or more people.
The basic concept of it is to capture the subject from one side of the frame to the other. Now, there are a few things that you should consider.
You should know that the best way to use this method is from left to right. So that means the more massive subject will be on the left side. And the smaller subject will stay on the right side.
Balance Elements in the Scene
The surroundings around the subject must be suitable for it. The overall balance is vital for composition in photography.
To achieve such balance, you should focus on the tone, color, sizes, and try to make it all even. That way, they share a somewhat identical visual weight.
Developing the skill to balance the elements in the scene takes a long time. But if you keep at it regularly, you’ll get exceptional at this. And the results are super worthwhile as well.
Juxtaposition is a somewhat advanced tool to take your composition in photography to a whole new level. It creates duality in a picture, which is almost magical to the eyes.
To do that, you have to put two things and make them identical by showing contrast and similarities. That sure will take some time and thought to do that.
Having an inspiration will help you develop the skill faster. You know the best way to learn something is to model someone excellent at it. And I recommend you do that if you are willing to learn Juxtaposition.
This one is another tool for you to get better at the competition in photography. It’s a bit more complicated concept to get down. But it’s well worth it.
The golden triangle gives harmony to the subject and the surrounding. That way, the photo is more relaxing for the eyes and enjoyable to have a look.
It will also take some time for you to develop this skill. After all, it’s a classical rule of photography that you can even find it on many famous paintings as well.
The golden ratio is approximately 1.618 to 1. That is also one of the most advanced composition methods you can use in your photography.
Artists have been using this ratio for centuries to create timeless creations. From paintings to architecture, you’ll see the usage of this ratio almost everywhere.
If you can learn to use it, your composition in photography would be near to perfection. So, it’s undoubtedly something you should put your time and energy into from now on.
Reflections and Dynamic Foreground
Reflections and dynamic foreground can help to create interest and intimacy in a picture. That’s why it’s crucial for you in the composition of your photos.
However, choosing the right foreground is not always easy. But you should try your best to get a dynamic foreground anyways as it’s going to shape the whole photo.
Also, the reflections will help to give some effects that you might like to have. And if you can combine those two, you’d get so many different options that you can choose from there.
If you are into photography for a while now, you know how critical the lighting is. Without proper light, there is no use trying to shoot a picture in the first place.
That’s why you must focus on the light composition in your photography. You should use the focused light to your benefit and take the best pictures possible.
But you will not get the best lighting every time ready for you. In that case, change your angle and see what fits the best and what does not. And if it’s still not enough, consider switching the place completely.
Whatever happens, you need to make sure that your image has proper lighting.
You see it everywhere. Natural framing is undoubtedly one of the most used composition techniques in photography,
To do that, you have to utilize the natural components. That can be branches, hills, trees, walks, rocks, and so on so forth. Anything related to nature can help you obtain natural framing in your pictures.
It’s almost effortless to learn, but you’ll be able to use it in so many places. Once you are relatively good at this, you are going to fall in love with it and use it everywhere.
Zoom In (Or Out)
Zooming capability helps to add so much to the composition in photography. You must learn how to utilize the zooming in or out features to your benefit.
You can zoom in on a subject to fill in the frame. That comes in handy when you are at a distance from your subjects.
On the other hand, zooming out can help you make the photo breathe a bit. Sometimes the picture will get too busy, and the subject might get too much in the center. Here, you can zoom out to solve the issue for good.
To get the best vertical shots, divide the frames into zones. That will help you get the proper alignments without much trouble.
But just shooting a vertical shot is not everything. You must consider all the other things as well. Make sure you follow all the previously mentioned techniques in the shooting process.
That will give you some astounding vertical images.
Combine Composition Techniques
Now that you know a ton of competition techniques, it’s time for you to combine them. Just using one method will not get you anywhere.
You should start by experimenting with which method goes with which. Make sure not to rush anything.
Building composition skills take time. I prefer you to learn one technique at a time. That way, your brain will not be overwhelmed with information. You can always stack other methods on top of it afterward.
But in the beginning, work with just one technique. And build from there. Your composition skills will grow in no time.
Do Your Research and Plan Your Shoot
You can see that it’s not the most straightforward task to get a better composition in photography. That’s why it’s vital to do some research and plan your shoot.
By doing that, you get the advantage of using the information and preparation in your photography. Start by identifying what type of subjects you are dealing with that day. Then do some research on the surroundings. That would give you enough ideas to plan out the whole shooting session.
When you do that, your photos will get so much better in composition and better in general. So, make a habit of doing that every single time.
Common Problems You Might Face
Let’s take a look at some of the common problems that you might encounter.
Sloppy or Busy Edges
This one is a prevalent problem that you must know how to fix. The edges are the part of a photo’s body that you must secure. A sloppy/busy corner can completely ruin a gorgeous photo.
You just have to be mindful to keep the corners free. Try to keep the subject in the center and the corners isolated from the edges. That will make the picture look so much better in general.
Uneven Horizon Line
It might seem the most natural thing to do, but it’s undoubtedly one of the trickiest. You might think that you are capturing some beautiful shots, but the uneven horizon lines can ruin the photo.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to be careful while shooting. Use the gridline function to make it easier for you to even out the subjects. Once you start to take photos with more care, the habit of capturing uneven horizon lines will begin to go away eventually.
Not Making the Subject the Focus of the Frame
This problem mainly becomes an issue for beginner level photographers. They struggle to put the focus of the frame on their subjects.
To correct that, you should consider asking yourself what exactly do you want to accomplish with the shots. Remember, questions are the answers. Once you ask that, you’d know where to angle the camera to get the proper shots.
Subject Leaving the Frame
You are going to face it when you try to emphasize too much on the background details.
As a photographer, you must know that your subject is the most crucial thing for you. The background is there just to complement your subject and make him stand out. When you get that clear, you won’t have an issue with your subject leaving the frame.
The Scene Feels Unbalanced
This one is a problem that most photographers face on a day to day basis. You can do a few things to fix that issue.
The first thing you can do is to change the angles. That will fix any uneven issue for sure.
Another thing you can do is switch places. It’s going to help you get rid of any unbalance that you might feel. The utterly different positioning will give a different image that you can work with from then on.
The Scene is Too Busy
Simplicity is the best friend of a photo. The photos you capture should have a few things at max. That way, the spectators don’t get overwhelmed.
A too busy picture is no good at all. Nobody likes to see a bunch of stuff in a photo. Thus, you should learn to keep it at a bare minimum.
Less is more when it comes to photography composition. You must remember that while you are shooting pictures. Keep a simple background and emphasize the subject as much as you can. That would make it very comfortable for the spectator’s eyes as well.
The Depth of Field isn’t Right
The depth of field is super vital in professional photography. You can’t just take a blurry picture and expect people to like it.
To get the maximum depth of field, try using less shutter speed. Also, use a tripod to stabilize the camera to get the best focus on your images. But if you choose to capture on hands, try image stabilization features for that.
Also, keep the aperture and ISO settings in check. That would help you to get great depth of field and sharpness.
The Subject is Too Centered
Now you know getting the subject in the center is crucial. But if the subject is too centered, it might be a problem.
To break that, try placing your subject on one side. Be mindful of the background too. That will be pretty essential in that case. It’s great to have a variety, nonetheless.
My Foreground is Boring
A beautiful foreground can take your photography composition to a whole new level. So many photographers struggle to find a new front to shoot pictures.
Try finding an aesthetically beautiful foreground for shooting photos. Be sure to follow all the other techniques you know and keep it simple as well. That will help you get mesmerizing pictures no matter what.
That one thing will make your photo composition skill better than anything else.
My Subject Feels Cramped Within the Frame
This one is the most common problem that newbies face most often. It takes away all the professionalism from a picture and ruins the whole thing.
The solution is that you have to let the picture breathe a bit. To do that, take a few steps back or zoom out a bit. That would be just enough in most cases.
Now you should have a clear idea of what is composition in photography and why it’s so important. As you saw, you must develop the skill to be a professional photographer. There is just no way around it.
It’s going to take some time to develop it as well. But with the proper methods, you’ll be able to learn it pretty quickly. And the amount of training you put into it is very worthwhile.
I hope the article makes it way more comfortable for you to get better composition on your photos and help you avoid the mistakes as well.