20 Photography Composition Tips and Techniques for Beginners

20 Photography Composition Tips and Techniques for Beginners

Photography composition is the way you arrange objects in the frame and combine them with other visual elements. If you stick to the composition rules, you will easily create professional-looking pics with a natural balance in the image. Moreover, following the principles of composition in photography, you will highlight the main parts of the scene and convey your message to a viewer.

20 Photo Composition Tips to Improve Your Photos

Even if you have the most expensive camera, your photos will be bad if you don't know the basic photography composition rules. So here are the golden photography composition rules and tips to help you create aesthetic photography. Mind that they are not mutually exclusive and can be combined and used together.

1. Use the Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds photography composition

In short, the rule of thirds in photography is a composition technique when you mentally divide the frame using two horizontal and two vertical lines. According to the principles of the rule of thirds, the focal point in photography should be placed along these lines or on the points these lines intersect. The horizon should be on the horizontal lines or parallel to them.

2. Use the Leading Lines Technique

leading line of composition in photography

Leading lines photography is a good image composition technique, which enables a shooter to use literal or implied lines to create a path for the viewers to follow. These lines may be straight, curved or angular.

leading line of composition in photography

If you want to take benefit of this technique, you should pay attention to man-made things like roads, fences, boardwalks, bridges, bricks, doorways or anything in a row, for example, lamp posts. However, you may also use this method with natural objects, such as rivers, shorelines, waves, sand, dunes, trees, tall grass, cliffs, rocks or sun rays.

3. Show Scale

scale photography composition tips

By showing scale in the frame, you will add drama, emphasize the scene or add a focal point, especially in landscape photography. However, mind that the object should be large enough to catch the viewers’ attention but, at the same time, not too large to distract them from the main object. The smaller an object seems, the more dramatic the image.

4. Incorporate Negative Space

negative space photography composition tips

The space around the main object is called negative space. It is also very important since it gives the subject the breathing room. Moreover, it helps you set the mood and convey emotions. According to this photographic composition technique, you should work with solid backgrounds and uniform textures to highlight the main subject/object.

5. Look for Symmetry

symmetry photography composition tips

Symmetrical photographic composition always looks complete and pleases the eye. Depending on the subject, it conveys some special feelings, like solitude, stillness or grandeur. The image may be called symmetrical, if by dividing it either horizontally or vertically, you get two parts that symmetrically reflect each other.

symmetry photography composition tips

Mastering this principle is not that easy, since you have to consider size, shape, color, line and texture as elements to balance. If you look carefully, you will see that we are surrounded by natural and human-built symmetry. However, you may also get a symmetric effect by using reflections, for example, a portrait utilizing a mirror or a mountain reflecting in a lake.

6. Pay Attention to the Horizon

horizon photography composition tips

One of the most important principles of composition in photography is to keep the horizon level. If the horizon line is not straight, it distracts the viewer (even if it is subtle). What is more, it is not recommended placing the horizon line exactly in the center of the frame. If you want to highlight the foreground, use a high horizon; if you want to emphasize the sky, use a low horizon.

7. Look for Unusual Angles

unusual angle photography composition tips

If you want to get original pics, try to think creatively and consider some alternative viewpoints. You know some places and objects have been photographed the same way thousands of times, so your task is to find the points that are not usually seen. You may get up really high or down low; you may also photograph through tree branches or a window.

unusual angle photography composition tips

Moreover, you may focus on one particular element but not on the whole object. It is one of those photography techniques that will help show a whole other side of the well-known subject. Fortunately, today shooters may use aerial photography drones that will capture any previously unseen angles.

8. Use the Rule of Odds

rule of odds photography composition tips

According to this rule, there should be an odd number of objects in the image, not an even one. You may also arrange the elements in groups to create odd numbers. Three or five objects work the best in the frame.

rule of odds photography composition tips

If you see an even number of elements in the photo, it’s more difficult to decide which competing elements you need to look at. The type of photographic composition with an odd number of objects allows the viewer’s eye to flow around the image more easily. In such a way, the viewer feels the harmony in the frame.

9. Create Contrast

fixthephoto color correction before after fixthephoto color correction before after

The contrast in photography is very important since we tend to focus on the areas of strong contrast first. There are various ways to achieve contrast, like the contrast in color, tonal contrast, contrasting textures, colors or contrast in post-production. This is especially important in black and white photography; if the subject doesn’t stand out there– the photo looks flat.

10. Fill the Frame

fill the frame photography composition tips

I proceed with the list of the most useful photography composition tips, and it’s time to describe one more method to make your images professional-looking ones. This technique is used by the best portrait photographers and states that you have to fill the whole frame with the subject.

fill the frame photography composition tips

In such a way, there are no distracting elements in the image and no background that may convey some message. The viewer will focus solely on the main subject. To remove unnecessary space around the person in the portrait, move closer to them or zoom in.

11. Use Selective Focus for Portraits

selective focus photography composition tips

Shooters working with portrait photography know that the background should not be too loud since it will distract the viewer from the main elements in the frame. If you want to make a viewer notice exactly the details you planned to highlight, use aperture and depth of field to do it.

selective focus photography composition tips

One of the photography composition rules that will help you isolate the subject and simplify the scene is using a shallow depth of field. You may also use a wide aperture to contrast the blurred background with the in-focus subject. To achieve the best results, use these rules in bokeh photography.

12. Balance the Elements

balance photography composition tips

Many people think that balance and symmetry are almost the same but it is not true, actually, since the balance can be asymmetrical while the symmetry can’t. In terms of photographic composition, the balance is the visual “weight” each element carries in the frame. It can be also the balance of color, tones and symmetry.

balance photography composition tips

If you see that there is much “void” in the frame, you may include a secondary object (that is not as important as the main one) that will be on the other side of the image. In such a way, you will balance the composition and focus the viewer on both subjects.

13. Use Triangles

triangle composition photography

Triangles will make an image more dynamic and balanced. According to this photographic composition method, you should find three visual points, that the viewers will then connect and tie all elements of the photo together. If you want to create stability, you may use triangles with similar proportions; in case you need to elicit a strong emotion, introduce a triangular shape different from others.

14. Add Depth

adding depth photography composition tips

Photographs that we are used to seeing are 2D ones and in order to give a scene a 3D-feel, a photographer should add depth to the frame. So, there should be a point-of-interest in the foreground, the middle ground and the far distance. However, mind that these three sections should have a defined contrast to be distinguishable from one another.

15. Include a Frame within a Frame

frame within a frame photography composition tips

Framing is a good image composition technique when you use something as a frame around your subject in the image. It aims at focusing a viewer on a particular point in the photo; moreover, it adds depth to the scene.

frame within a frame photography composition tips

You may use man-made frames, such as windows, archways, doors, bridges, mirrors and natural frames like tree branches, caves and mountains. Here, you may fully involve your creativity and use anything you like as a frame.

16. Use the Golden Spiral Principle

golden ratio photography composition principle

Our list of the top photography composition tips continues with the technique that will undoubtedly attract a viewer’s attention. The golden spiral principle is the method used by famous photographers; it helps create really amazing pics.

golden ratio photography composition principle

At first sight, it may seem complicated to implement but in reality, it is not so. You just have to place your primary object at the center of the smallest spiral and use the larger curves as leading lines. In such a way, you will get a perfect photographic composition in the frame.

17. Use Complementary Colors

complementary colors photography composition tools

Colors play an important role in the frame and contribute to the aesthetics of the image. Different colors convey different feelings and emotions: cool tones give off serene, moody vibes while warm colors always mean something energetic and passionate. You should photograph scenes that involve some complementary colors, to make the frame more attractive.

complementary colors photography composition tools

You may learn more about complementary colors photography and use a color wheel to make your pics more eye-catching. It is a standard tool that will show you which colors can complement each other and which can’t.

18. Use the Left to Right Rule

left to right rule photography composition tips

This photography composition technique states that if you want to show movement in the frame, this movement should go from left to right. The thing is that in western languages, we read and write from left to right. That is why we should also read the photos from left to right.

19. Use the Rule of Space

rule of space photography composition tips

The next photographic composition principle also refers to movement shots. The rule of space states that if you depict a moving object, you should add space in front of the direction your object is moving. Each photograph is a complete story, so when a person or thing in your photo is in motion, it is very important that he/she/it has somewhere to go.

rule of space photography composition tips

If your subject is too close to the edge, the picture will not be dynamic. Moreover, it is very important to consider the direction your subject is looking in since a viewer will follow this line of vision. Mind that there will be a disconnect if your subject is at the edge of the frame looking out of the frame.

20. Look for Repetition and Patterns

repetition and patterns photography composition tips

An image looks interesting if something is repeated once or twice. These may be colors, shapes, parts of objects, some elements or even the whole objects. Don’t be afraid to experiment with symmetrical and non-symmetrical arrangements of the repeating objects, and you will get a good image composition.

Freebies

Although these photography composition tips are useful and really work in the frame, following them doesn’t mean an unconditional success. It is only the half of it since further image editing also means much. Read on and you will get acquainted with freebies for Lightroom and Photoshop that will help you achieve the best results in several mouse clicks.

Cinematic

portrait lightroom freebie for photographers portrait lightroom freebie for photographers

It is a perfect tool to work with color toning. Having applied this effect, you will get a truly Hollywood effect enhancing the image with moody cinematic touches.

Motion

photoshop bokeh freebie for photographers photoshop bokeh freebie for photographers

This amazing overlay will add energy and movement to your photography composition. It will blur the background and make the main object clearer. This bokeh effect perfectly works with street pics.

Wedding

photoshop wedding freebie for photographers photoshop wedding freebie for photographers

It is an ideal tool to improve cold pics. Having applied this wedding Photoshop action, you will add warm color to the frame making it softer and more delicate. This tool will correct the exposure and add tender touches to your photo.

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