10 Rules of Composition

Composition is the arrangement of objects or elements on a canvas.  In this case, we are specifically discussing the composition of a photograph  It should be noted that while not every masterful photo has to adhere to these rules strictly, they are an excellent starting point for quickly improving ones composition skills.

1. Strong Focal Point (or Center of Interest) – be sure that there is something in your composition that draws attention from viewers and distinguishes itself from the rest of the objects in the frame.

Copyright Tambako the Jaguar

2. Rule of Thirds: “The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.” (Bryan F. Peterson (2003). Learning to see creatively. Amphoto Press. ISBN 0817441816.)

Copyright daybeezho


3. Horizon Line:  The horizon line should not be placed in the center of the composition, but rather far above or below the center.

Diego Abrams

Diego Abrams






4. Leading Lines: if there are linear elements in your composition (such as a road, fence, etc.), compose your shot so that the lines point towards the focal point, drawing the viewer’s eye in.

Copyright theonashow3

5. Cropping: When framing your shot, leave out extraneous objects or ‘information’ that is unnecessary.  Zoom in to emphasize the focal point.

Copyright Horia Varlan

6. Control Your Background: Be aware of what is in the back of your composition and that it does not distract or detract from your focal point.

A Red Winged Black Bird

7. Foreground Object: To create a sense of depth in your photoghraph, try to show a distinct foreground, middle-ground and background.  You can place an object in the very close to the camera to create a foreground.

Maria Bozina










8. Point of View:  Try shooting the same object from several different angles: above, below and straight-on, to improve the shot by having a more dramatic perspective.

Copyright Steffen Jakob

9. Natural Border: If possible, use elements in your composition (for example, tree branches or architectural elements) to make a ‘frame’ or border around your focal point, emphasizing its importance.

Copyright mjtmail

10. Showing Scale: When shooting something that is especially large or small, include a familiar shape (such as a person) so that the viewer can have something to which they can compare the object.

Copyright Alaskan Dude

Of course, there are always exceptions to every set of rules.  Sometimes a photograph that breaks the rules works!  So get out there and shoot some pictures!

Copyright MB*photo

Copyright dawvon

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