While mastering your camera settings and learning about aperture and shutter speed are important aspects of photography, composition is arguably more crucial. In fact, it’s the difference between a snapshot and a captivating work of art. The best photographers can collect elements of a wide world and, with their equipment and skill, organize them pleasingly within a rectangle. To do this, they use tried-and-true composition techniques that have been around for centuries. Whether you’re using a DSLR or your smart phone, these compositional “rules” will help you improve and create more balanced and aesthetically interesting photos.
The rule of thirds is perhaps the most recognizable and easiest photography composition technique to understand. Simply imagine your image is dissected vertically and horizontally into nine equal parts and position the most important elements of your shot along those lines and where they intersect. This is a simple and effective way to add visual harmony and balance to your photographs and can make them instantly more appealing. The goal of the leading lines photography composition technique is to draw your viewer’s eye into your scene by creating a clear path for them to follow. This can be done by utilizing foreground interest, using strong lines and textures, or including a dominant color to create a sense of depth. It’s also important to consider the weight of each visual element when determining which one to place in the foreground and which to place in the background, as some will have more importance than others.
Most people unconsciously look for symmetry in their surroundings, which is why it’s such a popular compositional technique. It’s easy to practice incorporating symmetry into your shots, especially with subjects like doors and windows, but it can be just as fun to look for more unconventional symmetrical compositions. When used effectively, negative space can be a powerful compositional tool to draw your viewer’s attention to your subject. This is achieved by leaving open space in your scene and minimizing distracting elements, such as unnecessary clutter or shadows. Negative space can also be used to add depth, create a sense of calmness or harmony, or to highlight your subject by allowing them to stand out against a backdrop of soft or neutral colors.
The colors you choose to include in your photo can have a huge impact on the overall composition of your picture. It’s important to think about which hues will accentuate your subject and how they’ll interact with each other, as well as the mood you want to convey through your image (e.g. happiness with bright, pastel shades or mystery with dark, muted colors). While it’s important to practice each of these composition techniques individually, it’s just as vital to combine them. There’s no right or wrong way to compose a photograph, and each photographer has their own unique creative vision that should be allowed to shine through. So, get out there and explore!