View Full Version : Some composition guidlines to improve your images

13-08-2009, 14:52
There are no hard and fast rules.. BUT... certain "common denominators" arise time & time again, despite the very different tastes and opinions of many judges.

What is composition? The dictionary says:- to make up (the elements of a picture), to form, to construct, to arrange, to put in order, to settle, to adjust, to tranquillize.
Remember, when you press the shutter you produce an image that has to stand on its own, not be influenced by "the emotion of the moment" when you took the picture. Obviously, it is not possible to comply with ALL the rules below in the same image, but the more the better. The application of these "Rules" becomes automatic. Try it!!

1. Learn & apply. Learn the "rules" before you learn how to break them (!) and develop your own style. Bear these "rules" in mind when you press the shutter button!

2. Thirds. Place objects on the imaginary line one third up, down, or in from the side of the frame, not in the centre. Things that move (people, animals, boats etc) like a space to move into, so keep two thirds of the image in front of your subject.

3.The Rule of Thirds.
One of the most commonly used 'rules' in photography is the Rule Of Thirds. It is also popular amongst artists.

It works like this:
Imaginary lines are drawn dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. You place important elements of your composition where these lines intersect.

Here is an example of an image using these rules, notice the red trailer is on the intersection of the thirds, while the horizon is on the top thirds line and the green grass area is also very close to the bottom thirds line.

So as well as using the intersections you can arrange areas into bands occupying a third, or place things along the imaginary lines. Good places to put things are; a third of the way up/down, or a third of the way in from the left/right .

Generally speaking, poor places to put things are right in the middle, right at the top, right at the bottom, or away in the corner.

Using the Rule of Thirds helps produce a nicely balanced easy on the eye picture. Also, as you have to position things relative to the edges of the frame it helps get rid of the tiny subject surrounded by vast empty space scenario.

3. Thirds (again). Get your horizon line, or any bold change in the image, one third up, down or in from the frame edge, not in the centre.

4. Diagonals. Diagonals make for a strong composition.

5. Verticals. Think vertical (portrait) for impact. Don't automatically take horizontal (landscape ) pictures.

6. KIS. Keep It Simple. A simple image is a strong image.

7. Rest. The eye likes somewhere to "rest" in a picture A subject. What is the picture of?

8. Read. Us westerners "read " from left to right. A solid feature stops our eye "falling off" the right hand side of! Some picture look better turned from side to side! Try it!!

9. Highlights. Be aware very aware, that the eye goes to the lightest part of a picture whether you want it to or not. This can then become the subject whether you want it to or not.

10. S's. "S's" are like diagonals, very strong in taking the eye into & through the image. But this can take the eye right out of it if you are not careful, see Rule 7. Flowing water is especially good at taking your eye out of the image!

11. Time. Take your time composing the image. A tripod (curse carrying them!) helps slow you down. Apart from its function of holding your camera still, it allows you to study the image whilst the camera is motionless.

12. Corners Look into the corners of the viewfinder. Look ALL round the viewfinder. A tripod helps you look round the image whilst keeping the camera still.

13-08-2009, 19:20
Another tip.... in a good image the horizon should be level, especially if the horizon/image contains water, nothing looks worse than a lake about to drain out of side of the image.
Even in an image containing hilly or mountain views there will be a way to check the image is level, look at buildings,walls, fences and trees, most will be pretty near vertical or horizontal, if they are, then the image is likely to be ok.

19-08-2009, 18:39
Thanks Mike, I needed the refresher.