Putting it all together: Composition

You could write a book about composition. It could go into art history, human psychology and voodoo magic. In later posts, I will go more into the details of photo composition. But for this series, what I’ll do is quickly summarize the five main points that every book on composition will cover in a few bullet points,

So here are the basic tenets of photographic composition, which you will see over and over again as you learn about taking better photos. While they are guidelines, not commandments, these points are universal for good reason. Following these rules will tend to make your photos better.

The Tenets of Good Composition

  1. Shoot with the concept of the rule of thirds. Break your screen into a 3×3 grid and put interesting points where the lines of the grid intersect. This rule is a complicated way of saying stop putting every goddamn subject in the center of your picture.
    1. An addendum to this rule would be to not always have the horizon/sky split your photo in half. The sky should be 1/3 or 2/3 of the frame, not ½.
  2. Use natural lines guide the viewer’s eyes. Often times, there will be lines created by the profile of objects in your photo. Use those lines creatively, try to point them towards your subject or make a nice little frame.
  3. Patterns and symmetry look pretty. And objects that stick out from a scene because they break patterns, well they make your photo stick out.
  4. Use the whole frame. Bruce Gilden once criticized a photo by saying, “Look at all that empty, dead space.” Don’t have that in your photos. If there’s too much nothing in your photo, get closer.
  5. Be conscious of your background or foreground. The idea is to avoid photo-bombers… whether they are annoying people or just distracting objects that you didn’t see at first.

Back to Part V: ISO

On to Part VII: Next Level