Easy photo tips: Composition

January 08, 2015  •  2 Comments


Know what you have.


How many of you reading this, still has the manual that came with your camera? Not many, I’m sure. And if you still have the manual, did you actually read through it?

One of the key rules about photography, is to know what your camera is capable off. The only way to do that is to read the manual. As soon as you know your cameras’ capabilities, you are in a much better position to take better photos. In most manuals they not only explain your what your camera can do, but they also explain many basic principles about photography. And that brings me to composition.


With so many self proclaimed photographers today, it saddens me to see a photo with beautiful colours and interesting subject, but there is no composition. Good composition can make an ordinary picture look ten times better, if not an 100 times. So if you like to call yourself a photographer, or even just someone that like taking beautiful photos, you should know about the “RULE OF THIRDS”. Simply put, your subject should very seldom be in the centre of your photos. The reason why I say 'should', rules are made to be broken. But before one can break any rules, they must first be mastered (I still get it wrong, a lot).

Luckily for us, today, most cameras can display a grid on the LCD screen. Look through your manual to switch it on. This grid divides your screen in three (horizontal and vertical) and where the lines cross - that’s your hotspot. Where your subject should be.

Rule of ThirdsRule of Thirds

​The above image shows the rule of third grid. Circled in red is where you should try and have your subject.

Spiral StairSpiral Stair

The above photo shows the rule of third very well. The handrail, shaped almost like the golden ratio, leads your eye to the skylight and it's very hard to rest your eyes anywhere else. You might notice that I slightly exaggerate my rule of thirds. That's just something I like to do and in this instance it worked. Duck Bay, ScotlandDuck Bay, Scotland

A jetty in Duck Bay, Scotland. Here the jetty leads you eye from the foreground through the photo to the main subject. The small rowing boats.

Breaking some rules. The rule of thirds can be broken, and this works best for symmetry. Something I find irresistible to photograph. More often than not, you'll find this in Architecture. Another big passion of mine. London National History Museum 06London National History Museum 06Nantional History Museum.

Above is the interior of the Nationa History Museum in London. One of my favourite buildings in the city. Now your attention is focused in the middle, to the windows on the far end, and both side are identical, so it doesn't distract but makes the image whole. Prague Senate_01Prague Senate_01

The Senate Building in Prague. Here again, symmetry with both sides almost identical. Except for the tourists, but I like to think they add scale to the photo.

There are time when you break the rules and there are no symmetry either. This is where you as an artist or photographer have to interpret the subject is such a way to make it visually pleasing for the viewer. Weird shapes or patterns can sometimes work well.

Roots, IrelandRoots, Ireland

Talk about weird shapes and patterns. Above, the roots agains the old castle wall in Ireland attracted my attention. When I viewed the photo on my laptop it looked boring and the roots melted in with the wall. So I desaturated the photo, except for some colour in the roots and grass. Now the roots stand out clearly agains the wall and the pattern make me think of the organised chaos that nature sometimes display. Small Cactus pattern 08Small Cactus pattern 08

A close up of a small cactus. Again no rule of thirds and no symmetry. But I filled the screen with the patterns from the leaves. Yellow & PurpleYellow & Purple

This macro of a poppy could have been done symmetrically. From all the different angles and composition I tried, I chose this shot for the shapes together with the colours.

One last tip for composition. If you are unsure about your composition, turn your camera upside-down to view the photo. It sounds strange, but it works. Give it a go. More often than not your composition will not really work that well. Don't let that put you off. Take a few shots and play around with the composition, starting with the rule of thirds.

Do you have any questions or tips on composition. Feel free to ask or leave your tips in the comments below. Don't forget to include a link to your website or photos.


A Traveller's View
Glad I could help Christina. Be sure the check out my post op "Understanding Aperture". If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.
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