Composition is the art of organizing elements within the frame to create an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. When done properly, a good compositions makes the main subject stand out while still keeping the entire photo balanced so nothing seems out of place. A good sense of composition is essential to being a photographer. Money may buy you the best gears available, but it is the mastery of composition that makes a photographer great. Some talented photographers were born with the ability to create stunning composition; for others, it takes years of practice to master the art of composition.
Although composition is a matter of opinion, there are a few agreed-upon rules that are commonly used by photographers. They are also useful to non-photographers, too. Even if you don’t own a SLR or DSLR, you can still apply some of these rules when taking pictures with your point-and-shoot cameras or smartphones. These rules are easy to follow, and can be combined to achieve even more stunning results. However, you must understand that there are situations where certain composition rules do not apply, and may adversely affect the outcome if you force it upon the subjects.
#1 Rule of Thirds
This is perhaps the most widely used technique. The frame is divided into imaginary thirds along the horizontal and vertical edges, forming two horizontal and two vertical lines with four intersections. The main subject is placed either on one of the four intersections or along one of the imaginary lines, making the photo balanced and interesting to the viewers’ eyes.
#2 Diagonal Lines
This is another simple but effective technique. The most prominent linear element in the frame, such as the edge of an object or a person’s body, is align with an imaginary diagonal line to make the photo more dramatic and add more depth to it.
#3 Leading Lines
Because human eyes naturally follow along lines when they see one, photographers may draw viewers’ attention to specific subjects by leading them with lines. Lines may be formed by linear elements like rooflines, rail tracks, series of lights, roads or trails. Also, it does not have to be a straight line.
The main subject is contrasted against the background or another subject either in color, brightness, or size. For example, placing a dark subject in a light color background will draw viewers’ attention to the subject. Keep in mind that there cannot be another object that contrasts against the background, or viewers may be distracted by that object.
A simple technique with emphasis on the overall balance within the frame. Elements are kept either horizontally symmetrical, such as reflection in water or mirror, or vertically symmetrical where arrangement of elements on the left is almost the reverse of the arrangement on the right.
Portion of the frame is intentionally occupied by secondary elements, blurs or shadows while leaving a window where the primary subject is visible. This technique forces viewers to shift their attention to the main subject or area, making it more noticeable than others.
The emphasis is placed on the subject’s surface, connecting the viewers with the feel as if they are touching the surface of the subject. This is especially useful to stress the texture and roughness of different types of materials, such as rocks, woods, asphalt, concrete blocks or a person’s skin.
There are many more tips and tricks in photo composition, but these seven are the easiest to learn and use. If you are a beginner or a non-photographer, you should definitely give these rules a try the next time you take pictures. Although not all of them are suitable for every situation, as you accumulate more experience in photography and composition, you’ll learn when to use and when not to use certain rules. Once you have a good grasp on these basic rules, you can then try using other, more advanced techniques in conjunction with them. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish and have a lot of fun doing it.