5 Photography Composition Techniques to Improve Your Photography

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Photographic composition is probably the most important of all Photography concepts. Without composition there is just chaos!

Let us consider an example to see why composition is important.

Imagine you enter a meeting or conference room in your office or college. What is the first thing that goes to your mind?

Where to sit…right?

What if table is in the corner and the chairs are lying haphazardly? What do you do?

Do you just go and sit wherever you can and start the meeting? Probably not!

First thing which occurs to your mind is to arrange the table and chairs properly! Agree?

Why is that? Why do you want to arrange it properly?

Yes…it is the arrangement (or organization) which is embedded in our mind from ages that we stick to that. Otherwise we feel uneasy!

Photography Composition is no different!

It is just a process of organizing this otherwise chaos world around us to make some meaningful photograph

Photography Composition Technique #1: Rule of Thirds

It is a very simple but powerful composition technique in Photography. It simply states that place the main subject of interest on any of the 4 intersection points formed by dividing an image into 9 equal parts!

Nature Photography Simplified. Rule of Thirds grid.  Photography Composition Techniques.

It is a way of avoiding the placement of subjects in the dead center which is bit natural to us. Centered composition is said to be static and uninteresting, though at times it might be the best composition.

By placing the subject on one of the 4 intersection points, you can create the visual tension or dynamic composition in the photograph there by creating the visual interest.

Nature Photography Simplified. Rule of Thirds.  Photography Composition Techniques. Black Crowned Night Heron in flight in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

Photo: Black Crowned Night Heron in flight in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
I have placed the bird on the top-left intersection point in the Rule of Third grid to give a sense of dynamism and enough space in the direction of the flight path

Read more on The Rule of Thirds

Photography Composition Technique #2: Leading Lines

Leading lines is another simple but natural photography composition technique. Our eyes naturally follow lines; they tend to move from one point to the other point following the path.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques. Leading Lines. Serene Beaches of Andaman Islands

Photo: Serene Beach of Andaman Islands
I have composed this photograph using the Sea Coast and the lines formed by the waves as leading lines. Leading lines help to create depth and move the viewers eye through the photograph

Lines are everywhere in the nature; some are apparent and some are not. Common leading lines in nature are:

  • Roads, Train tracks, Railings, Fence
  • Bridges, Corridors
  • Coast lines, Pebbles on the beach, Waterfalls, Streams
  • Receding patterns like trees, Rocks, Light poles

And the list goes on…

Read how to create depth using Leading Lines Composition Technique

Photography Composition Technique #3: Symmetry

If a photograph is composed in such a way that it can be divided into two equal parts then it is said to be Symmetrical.

Symmetrical composition is balanced and gives a sense of soothing to the eyes and mind of the viewer.

There are several examples in the nature that yield symmetrical compositions, like:

  • Reflections
  • A Divider in the Road
  • Railway Tracks
  • Pillars, Lamps, Trees on either side of the Road, etc

A symmetrical composition can be made more appealing if there is a strong focal point. The focal point keeps the visual interest in the photograph.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques. Symmetry. Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques. Perfect Reflection of a Frog

Photo: Perfect Reflection of a Frog
It is a very simple composition with perfect symmetry due to the reflection of the frog. Slight off-center placement gives a bit of dynamism to this photograph

Photography Composition Technique #4: Pattern

Patterns are very interesting and important composition elements in Photography. If used properly, they can yield excellent results.

Patterns are found all over the places. There are many things in the nature which yield to a pattern, like:

  • Trees, Lamp posts, Windows
  • Grasslands, Flower garden, Tulip gardens
  • Spirals in the leaves, Waves, Meanders, Cracks, etc

The photographs are generally appealing when the patterns repeat in a predictable form. So, care should be taken to pick only the pattern that is easily recognizable by the viewer.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques. Leading Lines, Symmetry and Patterns. Line of Coconut Trees in Andaman Islands

Photo: Line of Coconut Trees in Andaman Islands
I have used at least 3 composition techniques in this photograph. There is Pattern in line of the trees, Leading line in the middle which takes the viewer to observe a person playing, and then there is Symmetry!

Sometimes, breaking this pattern either with a strong focal point or a strong line makes photographs more compelling.

Photography Composition Technique #5: Framing

Framing can be a powerful composition technique if used properly.

The idea is to frame the main subject of interest using complementing secondary subject. But why do we frame it?

We use frames to keep the eye of the viewer focused on the main subject of interest! In addition it will help to create depth in the scene by acting as a foreground element which overlaps with the middle and background.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition Techniques.  Framing. Lasalle Canyon in Starved Rock State Park.

Photo: Lasalle Canyon in Starved Rock State Park
I have used the inner part of the Canyon as a frame for the waterfall, which is the subject of interest. The trees in the background and part of the Canyon is overlapped by the inner Canyon formations creating the depth in the photograph

But care should be taken to use the framing technique properly. Meaning, it is a good idea to frame a beautiful meadows using a tree in the foreground whereas it will make no sense to frame it using a lamp post.

The frame should be complementing and should give a context to the main subject of interest to make the photograph more compelling!

Final Thought

I would recommend you to keep in mind all the photography composition techniques while composing a photograph. Several photographs ask for more than one composition technique making it a very strong photograph.

As always, be equipped with the knowledge and practice it in the field till it becomes your second nature!

Now…go out and shoot…and enjoy!

It’s your turn now to tell me which is your favorite composition technique and why? Do you generally club the techniques to make a compelling photograph?

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18 Responses to 5 Photography Composition Techniques to Improve Your Photography

  1. Jesus August 6, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    Beautiful Prathap, great lessons all what you share.
    Thank you!

    • Prathap August 6, 2014 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks a lot! Jesus.

  2. Gerrie Malan August 6, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    Thanks Prathap, I’m passing it on to my one granddaughter.

    • Prathap August 6, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      That’s great to hear Gerrie Malan. Thanks!

  3. Joao Henrique Hollerbach August 6, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Congratulations, Prathap! You always publish very interesting articles. Thanks!

    • Prathap August 6, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      Thanks a lot! Joao Henrique Hollerbach

  4. Prasad Dalvi August 9, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    Thanks Prathap. It’s quite informative for me..

    • Prathap August 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      You are most welcome! Prasad Dalvi

  5. Dilip Somani October 27, 2014 at 6:43 am #

    Thanks for simplification, yet technically nice for Amateur like me.

    • Prathap October 27, 2014 at 9:31 am #

      Thank you so much Dilip Somani

  6. Apoorva November 16, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    Superb articles Prathap. request you to please explain HDR in detail too

    • Prathap December 3, 2014 at 12:24 am #

      Thank you so much Apoorva. I would write an article about HDR in the near future.

  7. Shirley May 22, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    I am not an experienced photographer but love to capture the beauty of nature,often with my mobile phone while walking my dog! I love reading your articles which are simple but so informative. Thank you Prathap for sharing your knowledge & your amazing photos.

    • Prathap May 23, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

      My pleasure! Shirley. I think the most important thing is to love the nature and it will show in your photographs. Camera doesn’t generally matter as long as you enjoying photography. Thank you for bringing this point!

  8. Imran Qureshi June 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Dear Prathap,
    I go through your blogs very often. Your tutorials, photo diary and articles are superb. I am a medical doctor and Professor in a Medical College of Pakistan. Though I am 58, yet I consider myself to be a student in Photography. My areas of interest are Birds, landscape and Macro. I have learnt a lot from you. Thank you so much.

    • Prathap June 19, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      That’s so very nice of you dear Imran Qureshi. I am glad to see your commitment in such age. Hats off to you! Please do keep posting about your progress. Thanks!

  9. S.Manjunath July 30, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    Dear Prathap,

    Iam 57 years old and on the verge of retirement. I love the great outdoors, wildlife and visiting historical monuments and interesting places. I have always enjoyed photography earlier but persued it in a very haphazard manner.Simplicity and a reader friendly approach are the hallmark of all your blogs. I have gone through many expensive books but find your tutorials the best. An amateur photography enthusiast is probably always in a overwhelmed and confused state of mind initially. You are probably the best thing that could have happened.You make photography understandable which rekindles the passion. Hats off to you !!!

    • Prathap July 30, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

      Dear Manjunath, It’s an honor to get a comment like this. Thank you so much. I am glad that you are following your passion at this age. It will be an enjoyable journey for sure. I wish you the very best. Thanks again!

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