Good composition is instinctive to professional photographers. They recognize a classic layout, or an interesting angle, without having to work at it. It’s certainly an art worth mastering, so we’ve put together some compositional commandments to get you off to a good start.
Fill the frame
You might automatically think of landscapes as being shot horizontally and portraits vertically. Generally speaking this works well, but if you mix it up you’ll probably get some surprisingly good results.
Wasting space is widely regarded as one of the most common crimes committed by amateurs. Some pictures work with plenty of space around the main subject, but all too often it’s merely a distraction.
It’s tempting to just aim your camera directly at your subject. This often looks great, especially if there’s symmetry involved. In many cases though, you can create a more dynamic feel by placing your main subject slightly to one side.
Similarly, if you’re trying to compose a picture and it just isn’t looking right always apply the rule of thirds. Imagine an empty noughts and crosses grid sitting over your image. Where the lines would crossover, try placing your main points of interest and you should notice a marked improvement.
Strong repeating patterns and interesting shapes work well. This is especially good if you add in something quirky to break up the pattern. It’s also a good idea to look out for interesting lines and curves to draw your eye into the picture, like a river, railway tracks, or a winding road.
Rule of thirds
Looking for a frame within a frame is a favourite with pro photographers and with good reason. Think doorways, window frames, arches and mirrors. Any of these used in the right way will create a greater feeling of depth and give your images more impact.
You’ve seen the shot you want but you’re not sure how best to capture it. Just vary to angle and see what difference it makes. Get up high and take shots looking down, then lie on the floor and look up. You’ll find you get completely different images of exactly the same subject.
Flick through some professional photographs. Looking at others images will help you get to know what works and why. Our Pro Gallery is the perfect place to start as it’s packed with fantastic photos of all different areas of photography.
The other great way to learn is of course by trial and error. These guidelines will certainly stand you in good stead, but you don’t have to follow them religiously. Always feel free to break a few rules. It might not always work but when it does the results can be exceptional.