Composition is the art of arranging the elements in a scene in a way that has a pleasing result.

Photo composition is one of the most important skills for any photographer to master, as it can make or break a photo. There are many photography composition techniques that you can use to improve your photos, but in this post, I will focus on four of the eight most common and effective ones. These are:

  • Rule of Thirds
  • Centred Composition and Symmetry
  • Foreground Interest and Depth
  • Frame Within the Frame
  • Leading Lines
  • Diagonals and Triangles
  • Patterns and Textures
  • Break the Pattern

Below I'll look at my four favourite composition styles in more detail and see some examples of how they can be applied.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is probably the most well-known and widely used composition technique in photography. It is based on the idea that dividing the frame into nine equal parts, using two horizontal and two vertical lines, creates a balanced and dynamic composition. The four points where the lines intersect are called the “power points” and are considered the best places to position the main subject or focal point of the image. The rule of thirds also helps to create negative space around the subject, which can add a sense of movement, tension or contrast to the photo.

The rule of thirds works well for landscapes, portraits, and any other type of photo where you want to emphasize the subject and create a dynamic composition.

Centred Composition and Symmetry

Sometimes, breaking the rule of thirds can create a powerful and striking image, this is especially true when you have a subject that is symmetrical or has a strong shape or pattern.

By placing the subject in the centre of the frame, you can create a sense of harmony, stability or order. Centred composition can also work well for minimalist photos, where you use negative space or a lack of interesting elements to isolate the subject and eliminate any distractions.

The centred composition works especially well for some architectural photos, where you want to showcase the shape and design of the overall structure.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are one of the most effective composition techniques in photography, as they can guide the viewer’s eye to the main subject or focal point of the image. Leading lines can be anything that creates a line in the scene, such as a road, a river, a fence, a bridge, or a building. Leading lines can also create a sense of depth, perspective, and movement in the image, as well as visual harmony and balance.

Leading lines create a visual balance and harmony and can divide the frame into multiple parts. Leading lines work well for any type of photo where you want to create a strong and dynamic composition and emphasize the subject where these lines converge upon or lead to it.

Frame Within the Frame

Another way to create depth and interest in your photos is to use a frame within the frame technique. This means using an element in the scene, such as a window, a door, a tree, or a person, to create a natural frame around the main subject. This can help to isolate the subject, draw the viewer’s attention, and create a sense of perspective and depth. A frame within the frame can also add context, contrast, and drama to the image, as well as create a story or help convey a mood or emotion.

A frame within the frame works well for street photos, where you want to capture the candid moments and emotions of people and places.

Rules are there to be broken

While it’s important to know the traditional rules of composition and find which you prefer, breaking them can result in some dynamic and interesting photos. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.