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Composition Techniques for Better Photos

a woman photographer holding a camera up to her eye on a beach

Composition is an essential aspect of photography that can make or break a photo. It is the arrangement of elements within a frame that creates a visual impact and leads the viewer's eye through the image. Good composition can evoke emotions, tell a story, and make an otherwise ordinary subject look stunning. In this blog, we will discuss some of the composition techniques used by photographers to create better photos.

1. Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most fundamental composition techniques in photography. It suggests dividing the frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, creating a grid of nine squares. The idea is to place the main subject at one of the intersections where the lines meet. This creates a more balanced and harmonious image, leading the viewer's eye towards the subject. In the image below, the girl on the dock is positioned where two lines meet in the bottom left corner. If she was framed in the very middle of the image, the viewer would not be able to see as much of the mountains in the background and it would be a much less interesting shot.

rule of thirds photography, girl sits on a dock on the right hand side of the image looking out at a mountain landscape

2. Leading Lines

Leading lines are lines within the frame that lead the viewer's eye towards the subject. This could be a road, a pathway, a fence, or any other linear element that guides the eye. Leading lines can be used to create a sense of depth, perspective, and direction within an image. Below, the river in the foreground as well as the horizon lines and even the mountain range in the distance lead the viewers eye to the castle, creating an effective composition.

example of leading lines in photography, the river in the foreground leads the viewers eye to the castle in the distance. A stormy sky can be seen in the background

3. Framing

Framing refers to using elements within the frame to surround the subject and draw attention to it. This could be a doorway, a window, or a tree branch. Framing adds depth and context to an image, making the subject stand out and giving the image a stronger visual impact. For example, in the shot below the photographer has chosen to frame the girl and building through a doorway, which gives the image much more visual impact and adds a storytelling element.

a doorway in the foreground frames a woman spinning in front of a palace

4. Negative Space

Negative space refers to the empty area around the subject that creates a sense of balance and harmony. Negative space can be used to create a sense of simplicity and minimalism, making the subject stand out and drawing the viewer's eye towards it - it can particularly work well with black and white photography to create a stark contrast. The use of negative space in the image below highlights the woman and the birds soaring above her head. 

A woman spins around with a piece of fabric as birds fly above her head. The image is in black and white

5. Symmetry and Asymmetry

Symmetry refers to an equal balance of elements on either side of an image, creating a sense of balance and order. Asymmetry, on the other hand, is an unequal balance of elements that creates a sense of tension and dynamism within an image. Both symmetry and asymmetry can be used to create interesting compositions, depending on the subject and the desired mood. Below, the symmetry of the dock creates an interesting juxtaposition against the wildness of the mountains and helps the image to tell a story.

man stands at the end of a wooden dock looking out over a lake at a mountain range

Composition is a critical aspect of photography that can make a big difference in the final result. By using the techniques discussed above, you can create better photos that evoke emotions, tell a story, and draw the viewer's eye towards the subject. So next time you're out shooting, try incorporating these composition techniques and see the difference it makes to your photos.

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