A river in Glencoe Scotland

Got the subject? Great. Got the location? Phenomenal. Got the Camera? Awesome! Now you point and shoot only to find the photo isn’t as good as you wanted it to be. Here are 10 tips to improve your composition, taking your photography to the next level. Let’s start by defining what composition means.

Composition: various elements within a frame arranged to create a scene. Images are more pleasing to the eye, enabling photographers to reach a wider audience.

Before breaking the rules, we need to know what they are and why we use them. Here are 10 easy tips to improve your composition in photography.

1. The Rule of Thirds for Beginners

The rule of thirds is the most common form of composition. This was the first thing I learned as a beginner in photography.

Divide your image into 3 horizontal and 3 vertical sections. The most important feature should be placed at the intersection of these gridlines.

Photography Composition Sunflowers at Sunset

Most if not all cameras today, have a setting which displays a grid dividing your image into 9 parts. If you’re shooting with an older film camera, you may not have this setting.

After a little practice, it’ll become second nature anyway!

When shooting landscapes, align the horizon on the bottom or top horizontal line. This would be dependent on what part of the scene we wish to focus on.

If you have a beautiful sky, then this would take up 2 thirds of the image – the opposite for a mountain range with a lake.

Don’t forget to keep this rule in mind when it comes to editing (post-processing) your images. This is where our cropping tool is most effective.

2. Leading Lines

This is a technique where our viewer’s attention is drawn to lines that lead to the main subject in the image.

Leading lines don’t work if they go to either side of the image, which then takes your viewer out of the photo! We want to look for lines that draw the viewer’s eye into the scene rather than away from it.

Photography Composition Leading Lines
Passenger high speed train with motion blur in station

They usually start from the bottom of your image. They lead the viewer’s eyes to the part of the photo we want them to focus on. This is either the subject or background.

Leading lines are usually roads, paths, train tracks, buildings, walls, fences, rivers, or trees. It could even be a pattern.

To get an exaggerated depth/scale use a wide-angle lens.

3. Framing your Subject

It’s all about what we want the audience to see and how. Framing could be a piece of architecture such as an archway, window, doorway or some foliage.

Photography Composition Framing the Subject

This gives our photo a sense of depth with layers, leading the eye to the focal point. With a little practice, you’ll soon notice natural framing elements. This will improve your photography composition in no time.

4. Filling the Frame

Allow a subject to take up the entire frame, making it the most significant part of the image. This technique minimises the amount of background in the photo. It draws viewers attention to the focal point, which is less distracting.

Filling the Frame Photography Composition

Filling the frame also encourages photographers to spend more time thinking about the subject, and how to feature it more in an image.

5. Simplicity and Minimalistic

If photos are too cluttered, remember, less is more. Don’t try to cram a whole lot of things into an image!

A minimalistic and straightforward image can have a profound impact. It doesn’t make it boring.

Photography Composition Simplistic

As the image contains so little, it becomes essential to think more about the subject. It creates a bigger impact on our viewers.

6. Change your Viewpoint

You see something interesting, and you want to capture it. Don’t stand, point and shoot! Think before capturing that shot!

One of the easiest ways to get a more interesting photo is to change the viewpoint. This can change the feel of an image.

Most people shoot things at eye level, so why not give viewers a different perspective? Shooting from a low angle makes the subject more dominant.

Photography Composition Changing your Viewpoint
Low view of a skater french bulldog

High-angle shots can make your subjects seem vulnerable. When it’s applied with the correct effects and settings!

Lay on the ground or climb a tree. Anything that comes up with a unique angle, to capture a viewers attention.

7. Using Negative Space

Isolate subjects such as an insect, bird or tree. This eliminates distractions in the scene, helping viewers to connect with the subject.

To isolate your subject and add more space, try using a shallow depth of filed. It separates your background from the main subject. Add some beautiful bokeh.

Photography Composition Using Negative Space

The space around your subject can also be as eye-catching as the subject itself. So long as everything is well balanced.

Negative space doesn’t have to be empty. All we need to do is to ensure our audience’s primary focus is on the subject.

For people, animals or transport, try to leave more space in the direction they are looking or going.

8. Balancing the Elements

Balancing the composition involves arranging the subject and negative space. This ensures that no single area of the image overwhelms other areas.

Balancing Elements Photography Composition

Make sure the weight of our main subject balances with objects of lesser importance. Thus commanding equal attention.

There are two basic types of balance, formal, and informal. Formal is placing the subject in the middle of the frame, such as a portrait.

Informal takes one or more dissimilar elements and balances them across the photo. The rule of thirds is an example of informal balance. This also works with colours, light against dark and textures.

9. Centred Composition

Isn’t this the opposite to rule of thirds? Yes, it is. Placing the subject smack in the middle of the frame works well with symmetrical scenes.

Photography Centered Composition
Close up hand of two people holding tree in soil on outdoor sunlight and green blur background. Planting the tree, Save world, or growing and environment concept

This is ideal when shooting people on a wide-angle lens. It removes distortion encountered when placed on the edge of the frame.

I also like to do this for square images, frames and uploads to Instagram.

10. Include Foreground

Add more depth to an image by including some foreground. It may consist of anything that lies between you and your subject. This works well with wide-angle lenses filling space which may otherwise seem boring.

Wide-angle lenses increase a sense of depth. They make objects in the foreground look more extensive than they are.

10 Easy Tips to Improve your Composition in Photography Conclusion

Learning how to see and understanding composition in photography requires a little time. The possibilities of composition are almost endless! Even the slightest change can make a big difference to the photograph.

Remember, these are nothing but guidelines or starting points. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment. If you are beginning to explore photography, mastering composition will enhance your skills.