Composition Rules


A well thought-out composition is an essential aspect of taking the perfect picture as the arrangement of visual elements can have an immense impact on how appealing and compelling the photo is. As a result, there are multiple established composition rules which can be applied to any photograph in order to make it more impactful. Below I have listed 3 common composition rules. These rules will begin with the most intuitive and end with the most advanced.


  1. Rule of Thirds
  2. One of the most basic and instinctive composition rules is the rule of thirds. Essentially, this rule states that in order to make your photo more visually appealing, you should divide it into 9 equal sections through two horizontal and vertical lines. Ideally, one should place the focus of the image on one of the lines or intersection points. For instance, when photographing a person, it is recommended that you place their face on one of the intersecting lines. Luckily, most DSLRs and Phones have made this easy by giving users the option of superimposing a grid over their screen.



  3. Leading Lines
  4. Leading lines are one of the most effective ways to direct a viewer to focus on a certain aspect of your photograph. This rule states that the human eye is naturally drawn along paths or lines. Therefore, if one strategically places these leading lines in their composition, they can influence the way that their image is perceived. Some examples of common leading lines that are used include roads, walls, or patterns.



  5. Frame Within a Frame
  6. Framing your image is another way to make your photo more visually appealing and to lead your viewer's eye to the subject of the photo. Surrounding the scene with a natural frame isolates the main subject, thereby drawing the viewer's attention to the intended point of interest. The frame also aids in creating a sense of depth and context. This realism will resonate more with your viewer. These natural frames within photographs can be anything from a doorway to the branches of a tree.



It may seem odd for there to be “rules” for photography – an artistic median that is meant to allow people to express their creativity. Instead, one should look at these “rules” as guidelines. Comprehending these guidelines will be extremely helpful for beginners. However, as one gets a deeper understanding of photography, they will also understand when it is appropriate to break these guidelines. Unfortunately, no article will truly teach you when to use or break these “rules”, it is up to you to familiarize yourself with them and to experiment with breaking them. Only then will you be able to powerfully and boundlessly express yourself.


-- article by: Duncan L.


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