Oct 16, 2020 | General

A Beginner’s Guide to Better Photography with Composition



How to take better photos with your camera

Have you ever wondered how to take a photo that is totally eye-catching?  It’s all about the composition of the photograph in the viewfinder.  Like most things, composition is something that is studied and practiced, yet rarely mastered.

I’m sure you have seen it on social media, most photos are just there and some photos really pop!  Perhaps you took a photo that is one of your favorites because it is so pleasing to the eye.  You might have employed some of the below techniques without even realizing it.

Keep in mind that there are no hard and fast composition rules in photography.  Compositional rules are more like guidelines.  These techniques are as useful for landscape photography as they are for action sports photography, though some more than others depending on the situation.

Rule of Thirds

iphone on tripod
image of iPhone on a tripod with 3×3 gridlines showing rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is the first rule most photographers will learn.  Very simply stated, the rule of thirds divides the viewfinder into nine equal rectangles, three across and three down.  Where these rectangles meet, the lines drawn between the rectangles, are the best places to locate subjects for an eye-pleasing composition as opposed to placing the subject smack dab in the middle of the shot.  This is a very easy compositional rule to employ.

Symmetry and Centered Subjects

symmetry 1
photo of building symmetry

Having explained the Rule of Thirds, it is now time to break that rule.  If you have a symmetrical composition, it will usually appear more eye-pleasing if it were centered in the viewfinder.  The reason for this is that if you applied the rule of thirds to a composition with a lot of symmetry, that symmetry would become unbalanced and the photo will look, well, off-center.  If you have a subject in front of a symmetrical background, you will probably want them both centered in the frame to maintain balance.

Leading Lines

Leading lines is a useful technique to draw the viewer’s eye into the photograph and toward the subject.  This technique can be a road or sidewalk, a row of trees, or even waves hitting the beach.  Leading lines are where you find them and don’t let the name mislead you, they don’t have to be straight lines.  Curves can be just as useful and even more aesthetic.

Framing the Shot

Using the foreground to frame the shot is also a useful tool.  Archways, doorways, and windows are common frames used for this technique.  In the way leading lines draw the viewer’s attention to the subject, so does framing.  As a result, framing gives a sense of depth to the photo.

Negative Space

The opposite of a close-up, negative space gives the subject and the viewer some room to breathe.  Sometimes it is used to show more of the surroundings of the subject.  If the subject is a person looking in one direction, negative space in that direction feels natural and builds a sense of anticipation.  The opposite effect, having the subject looking immediately into the side of the photo would feel cramped and off-balance.

Simple Compositions

Man walking into a tunnel in high contrast

Along with Negative Space, a simple composition can often be more impactful.  The lack of a busy background or multiple elements allows the viewer to concentrate on the subject of the photo without it getting lost in the noise.

Use Foreground to Show Depth

Having something in the foreground of the shot can show depth.  Similar to how framing and leading lines show depth, having something like a rock or tree in the foreground of a landscape photograph can give a sense of depth when there are no frames or lines to be had.


Once you start implementing these ideas into your own photography, you will begin to notice the difference.  These are the techniques that make photographs stand out from snapshots and engages the viewer much more.  Work them into your photography and your photographs will take on a more dramatic look.

Until next time, go take some photos.



Ralph is an avid photographer in his spare time. He spends a lot of his photography time shooting sports photos of his daughter, who plays softball and swims. He also has a keen interest in mobile photography.


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