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The ultimate guide to composition

You’ve likely heard of the Rule of Thirds, and while that is one of the key factors in achieving pleasing composition in a photo, it isn’t the only one. Take your photography to the next level with these helpful tips to improve your composition.

Center dominant eye photography

Center dominant eye

In portraiture, try positioning your subject’s dominant eye in the middle of the photo for more impact. This guides your viewer’s eye straight to the middle of the photograph.

Symmetry harmony photography

Look for symmetry and repeating patterns

Our world is defined by patterns and symmetry, and this is a key thing to remember in photography as symmetry in a photo is naturally pleasing to the human eye. This allows you to bring some form of order and harmony in your photo.

Photography cave patterns

Humans are also naturally attracted to patterns, as they are visually attractive and suggest harmony. Think patterns like a series of arches that hold up a bridge, or petals of a flower. You can also try seeking out less regular patterns (as above) to provide an interesting juxtaposition to your image while maintaining an aesthetic harmony.

Leading lines Murano photography

Leading lines

Lines help you lead the viewer through the image and focus on the elements you want them to focus on. In this image, the viewer would first be enthralled by the colourful row of houses and their reflection in the canal, before settling his eye on the gentle sunset in the background. Do note that these lines do not necessarily have to be straight, and can curve from one side of the photo to the other.

Photography natural framing

Natural framing

Keep an eye open, and you’ll realize that there are plenty of natural and manmade structures I the world that can be used to frame a subject and provide an interesting depth to your image. By placing your subject in a “naturally occurring” frame (as above), you lend the photo a fresh dynamism while keeping your viewer’s attention on the main subject.

Natural contrasts photography

Look for contrasts

Life is all about contrasts. Think yin and yang, light and dark, gentle and harsh – when you put 2 contrasting elements in a single image, it usually produces spectacular results. The image above contrasts colours, while lending the photo a unique depth that makes the entire scene interesting to look at, even though it is a simple shot of café’s interior.

Fisherman casting net

Get up close

While it is tempting to fill as much of the frame as possible, sometimes you will do well to change it up and get up close instead. By filling the frame and simplifying your composition, you place greater importance on your main subject matter, and won’t confuse the viewer. Whether you choose to isolate a single object, like a beautiful stained glass window against brick walls or highlight unique patterns or textures (see below), sometimes less is more in photography!

Snow photography

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Always provide depth

One way to achieve pleasing composition is to ensure your image has a subject matter in the foreground, middle and background. This creates depth, and allows the viewer’s eye to naturally “walk” through the image. This is particularly important for landscape photography, as wide scenes can look “flat” and uninteresting without depth.

Chinese river night scenery

Experiment and break the rules

As they say, rules were meant to be broken. While there are certain guidelines in composition that can make or break your photo, don’t forget that photography is ultimately an art form and an outlet to express your creativity. Even though breaking out of the fold doesn’t always work, it can sometimes produce dramatic and beautiful images, so our final tip is to always experiment!

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