Composition describes placement of relative objects and elements in a work of art. In other words, where you place your subject, foreground, and background elements within your photograph.

Composition is a way of guiding the viewer’s eye towards the most important elements of your work, sometimes – in a very specific order.

There are no fixed rules in photography, but there are guidelines which can often help you to enhance the impact of your photos.


I know, I just said there are no “rules.” Think of this as a guideline. Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing this will add balance and interest to your photo.


Placing your main subject off-center with the Rule of Thirds creates a more interesting photo, but sometimes it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You could balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.


When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. You can use lines to draw the viewers eyes to your subject.


We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.


Before photographing your subject, take the time to think about which direction to shoot. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Try shooting from ground level or from a higher viewpoint.


Does the background help or hurt the image?

Sometimes the background will help to tell your story. Other times, you will want to simplify and take the distracting elements out of the scene.


You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another.


By placing objects around the edge of the composition, you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.


You can use color to draw the viewers eye to specific areas of the photograph or you can use it to create a mood. Try using contrasting colors or a muted color palette.


Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject, you eliminate the background “noise” ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.


Pay Attention to the Details

Change Perspective

Clearly define how you want the viewers eyes to move through the photograph.

All images and text by Melinda Walsh