Beginners guide to good composition in photography

Beginners guide to good composition in photography

Basic rules

There are some basic rules to taking good photographs and some basic rules for good composition in photography.  However as we hear so often; rules are made to be broken. So, if you want to break the rules in your photography, it’s a good ides to know what they are are in the first place.

Rule of thirds

Lets start with the rule of thirds; one of the basic rules to good composition. But I don’t need to cover that here, just check out our other post  ‘Beginners guide to the rule of thirds’ with some good examples.

Good Composition in Photography
Avoid putting horizon dead centre of image, and keep it level. © A Webber


Another important basic rule to good composition in photography: avoid putting your horizon in the centre of your image, and just as important (or even more important); keep your horizon level. It doesn’t matter if the subject looks good, the colours are spot-on, with a good sense of depth and the image is crisp and sharp;  if the horizon’s crooked, viewers will just pass it by. There are different ways to get a level horizon, the first is to use a Tripod if yours has a spirit level, you can use that, some digital camera’s have a ‘rule of thirds’ grid, this is also quite a handy way to get a level horizon. If you’ve already downloaded your images to your computer only to find that the horizon is not level (sometimes it can be hard to tell through the camera’s lcd screen) then it’s easy to rectify on even the most basic image editing software.

Image by Allison Hare

Using Leading lines in Good Composition in Photography

Try using ‘lines’ to lead the viewer’s eye to a focal point in your image; they could be rivers, roads, paths, fences or even telephone wires. By adding a leading line to a subject, a viewers eye will naturally follow it.

© A Webber

Patterns and symmetry

Just look around you and you’ll find patterns and symmetry everywhere to photograph, in the natural world and man-made. From architecture to a spiders web to a snow flake, you just have to train your eye to find them. Many photographers already have the talent and an ‘eye’ for finding patterns and symmetry in the world around them, but for those of us that haven’t, try looking for repeated lines and curves, if it’s a building or large structure, try zooming-in on a particular area where you can see a pattern using a Telephoto Lens. Try a Macro shot of a leaf rather than the whole tree. Once you begin finding patterns, you’ll see them everywhere.


Pay particular attention to your background. If you’re trying to isolate your subject, such as a portrait shot of someone outside, try looking for a suitable background that will not take the viewers attention away from the main subject, if this isn’t possible (perhaps in a crowd of people) then use a larger aperture (lower f/stop number) to keep your subject in sharp focus and everything else nicely blurry and out of focus. If, on the other hand, you would like to keep the subject and the background in focus, such as photographing someone before a famous landmark, then you’ll need a small aperture (high f/stop number) to get everything in focus.The same applys indoors; try avoiding a cluttered background that will distract the viewers attention.

A good example of  framing a shot by Oisin Mulvhill


There are many ways to frame your subject; perhaps a scene through a window, through an archway or a subject through trees and plants, there are as many ways of framing a picture as your imagination allows. Make the main subject the brightest part of your image to lead the viewers eye in. By framing your picture you will help to isolate the main subject.

© A Webber


Try shooting from a different viewpoint; maybe from a higher or lower angle.Try holding your camera in potrait and horizontal mode, or even at an angle. Let your photographs tell a story; allow the viewer to contemplate what may be going on in your image, but above all, experiment with composition your photography.

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