There are no unbreakable rules when it comes to how you should compose your photographs. After all, who likes rules? There are however, several guidelines you can use to help improve the composition of your photos.
Always ask yourself, "Why am I taking this photograph?"
# 1 The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most useful composition techniques in photography. It's an important concept to learn as it can be used in all types of photography to produce images which are more engaging and better balanced.
Assignment: Take 5 photographs that demonstrate the Rule of Thirds.
When photographing buildings, roads, trees or other strong linear subjects, compose your image so that the linear elements lead the viewer’s eye through the photograph. These “leading lines” lead your eyes through the image—sometimes even out of the image. These lines can be the main subjects of the image, or they can be used to lead your viewer to a specific area within the photo that is an important focal point. In addition to straight lines, curves also make interesting compositions. They serve a purpose in bringing the viewer's eye throughout an image. Curves can be the main subject, or as with leading lines, they can be a means of leading the viewer to different subjects within an image.
Take photographs that use leading lines that... 1. Lead your eye to the subject of the photo. 2. Lead your eye on a journey through the photo. 3. Create an interesting design or pattern.
Assignment: Take 2 photographs in each of the above categories, for a total of 6 photographs of Leading Lines.
# 3 SIMPLIFY
Simplify the composition by filling the frame with your subject, leaving little or no space around it can be very effective in certain situations. It helps focus the viewer completely on the main subject without any distractions. Another method to simplify the composition is by taking photos with uncomplicated backgrounds that don’t distract from the main subject. You can also create a simple composition by zooming in on part of your subject and focusing on a particular detail.
Assignment: Take 5 photographs that demonstrate the Simplify rule of composition.
# 4 FRAMING
The Framing Rule, as with most of the rules we will be discussing, is a technique to bring focus to the subject of the photograph. Simply put, you use elements within the scene to frame the subject. There are 4 different framing techniques. 1. Use a literal frame. 2. Use architecture - windows, doorways, fences, etc. 3. Use nature - trees, fields of flowers, branches, rocks, etc. 4. Use areas of high contrast light.
Assignment: Take one photograph for each of the above categories for a total of 4 photographs.
# 5 Balance
When you think ‘balance,’ an image may come to mind of a scale, equally weighted on both sides. When it comes to photographs, balance doesn’t necessarily mean that the photograph is symmetrical. Rather than being perfectly symmetrical, a ‘balanced’ photograph often means that the photograph is balanced in other ways throughout the composition. The varying tones, texture, and shape within a composition all have a lightness and heaviness that contributes to the overall balance of the photo. In order to have a balanced photograph, all of these visual aspects should be in harmony with each other.
Formal Balance - Symmetrical and Central Framing Informal Balance - Asymmetrical
To know how to balance a photo, you need to know what attracts viewer’s eyes in a photo. Here’s a short list:
Areas of contrast
Items that are in focus (especially if most of the photo is not)
Warm (red/yellow) colors
People and (to a lesser extent) animals
The eyes of your subject
The direction that your subject is looking (even if it is an empty space, it gains visual weight because viewers will want to look the same direction as the subject)
Assignment: Take 3 photographs of formal balance, and 3 photographs of informal balance
First Home Assignment - My Best Photos
Take one photograph for each of the rules on this page. Rule of Thirds Leading Lines Simplify Framing Balance This photograph should be the best you can do at this moment. You will take the photos outside of school so you can find objects and subjects that are interesting to you. Think like an artist and take photos that mean something to you or communicate your view of the world. You will have one to complete this assignment.
If you forget all these rules, remember this...
1.Think before you take photographs. 2. Focus on your subject. 3. Be aware of the background behind your subject. 4. Hold your camera still.