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Photography Composition Techniques – The Elements Of Design

Photography Composition Techniques – The Elements of Design

Elements of design plays a major role in composing a photograph in a way that is understood by the viewer consciously or unconsciously.

The artists and painters depend heavily on the elements of design while they create the artwork. It is probably the fundamental requirement for any artist to understand these elements in order to design their artwork.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Color, Texture, Pattern, Shape, Form and Line

Unfortunately it is not the same with most of the photographers. We tend to start taking photographs right away without having the required knowledge on composition. Most of the photographers probably will learn just the Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines composition techniques and stick to them.

If you are one of them, then you would be surprised to see that there is lot more than rule of thirds and leading lines.

Elements of design will open up plethora of opportunities to tap into the creative side of you. You will start to create the work of art than a photographer who is confined to few rules.

Without further ado let us jump into the design…

The Elements of Design

The 7 most important elements of design in Photography are:

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Form
  4. Texture
  5. Pattern
  6. Color
  7. Space

Each of these elements help you to design your photograph such a way that it emphasizes one or the other important aspect in composition. They bring an order in to a photograph.

In this article we will briefly discuss about each of these elements of design.


Line is the most important element of all and also the most strongest in its meaning. Your eyes follow the line whether it is visible or invisible. Based on its character and direction, lines communicate emotions making it one of the strongest elements of design.

Horizontal lines suggest feeling of restfulness or calmness, vertical lines suggest feeling of power, and diagonal lines suggest feeling of movement and direction. Soft curved lines represents relaxing or soothing feel whereas acute or jagged lines suggest frenzy or chaotic feeling and so on.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Line

Read more on how to use Lines to create effective compositions.


Shape is a two dimensional representation of an object. Kids draw primarily using the shapes like an outline of a farm house, a tree, sun, etc. The outer line of an object forms the shape.

In photography, you can represent interesting shapes of the objects by using silhouette effect due to backlighting. Silhouette photographs make an impact when the shape of the subject (object) is clearly defined in contrast with the background.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Shape

Read more on how to use Shapes to make unique photographs.


Form is a three dimensional representation of an object. A third dimension (thickness) to the Shape yields Form.

Photography (and art) is a two dimensional form lacking the depth which poses a challenge to  you as a photographer to somehow represent the third dimension by creating an illusion of depth.

By using light and shadow you can create an illusion of depth in your photograph.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Form

Read more on how to use Form to make unique photographs.


Texture represents the details that are present on the surface of an object. You can use texture to create photographs that are visually interesting.

Direction of light plays an important role in bringing out the textures. Based on the mood you want to convey in your photograph, you will either wait for the light that will emphasize the roughness or softness of an object.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Texture


Patterns are repetition of Shapes or Textures that are organized in a rhythmic way.

If you carefully look for patterns there are everywhere in nature and also in man-made things. By using these patterns you can compose a visually compelling image that keeps the viewer engaged.

Sometimes breaking this harmony or rhythm in pattern yields much better results by yielding a dynamic composition.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Color


Color is a major design element that we love. Colors play an important role to set the mood of the photograph.

The colors can be broadly classified as warm colors and cool colors. Red, Orange, and Yellow are the warm colors that suggest the feeling of warmth, liveliness, and energetic whereas Blue and Green are cool colors that suggest the feeling of calmness, tranquility, and sad/gloomy.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Color


Space is another important element of design that suggests the distance between the objects, perspective, and proportions of objects.

A subject represents the positive space in an image and the background represents the negative space. Negative space is as important as the positive space in defining the shape of the subject.

Space makes a subject feel comfortable in the image if composed using the rule of thirds.

Nature Photography Simplified. Photography Composition  Techniques. Elements of Visual Design - Space

Final Thoughts

The elements of design described above form the foundation of good composition for photography.

Next articles will discuss each of these elements in detail to enable you to understand them in depth.

Do you use these elements of design consciously in your photographs? What elements of design do you think makes a photograph more compelling than the other?

Leave your comments below…

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Prathap is a professional nature photographer and founder of Nature Photography Simplified blog. He aims to simplify every photography concept to help beginners and amateur photographers.

Download his highly recommended FREE eBook "Bird Photography – 10 Mistakes and Solutions" which has been instrumental in helping thousands of bird photographers.

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This Post Has 32 Comments
  1. A very helpful informative article. Thank you. We see many article which talk about rule of thirds and leading lines. However to go beyond this and identify other important aspects is very refreshing and helpful. Well done.

    1. Thank you so much Julian for letting me know about it. I am so happy to write about Elements of Design since I have overlooked it for many years as well. I want to emphasize here again that it is very important to understand these design elements to take your Photography to next level. Thank you!

    2. Very informative article. I feel that I am learning a lot. Maybe this article is not for experienced photographers but for me it help understand the rule of third and concepts. Thank you!

  2. Hi Prathap!

    There are lots websites that teach photography but this is where I come to learn to APPRECIATE photography. Your tutorials are extremely well written and very informative, and the absolute beauty of your work is awe-inspiring. Many thanks for all your efforts!

    P.S. Now, if only I could manage to download your e-book without going around in circles, continuously entering my email address and getting nowhere, then I would be a very happy NPS subscriber. Perhaps you could look into this matter next time you have a free moment.

    Thanks again … and keep up the GREAT work!

    1. Hi Liz…Thank you so much for your kind words. I am honored. It always keeps me happy when my blog readers say that an article is very informative. Thank you!
      Sorry about the problem with downloading the eBook. For some reason, few people seem to face this issue every now and then. I haven’t been able to figure out the root cause though I tried to fix this issue several times.
      I have sent you the eBook. Please check it.

  3. Sir,
    As usual u have come up with an outstanding article .I am also a photographer .Photography has been my Hobby ever since I was in school .I have downloaded ur ebook on Bird Photography and aim to improve my pics .
    Do keep up the good work !With Best Wishes
    Amrita Raj

    1. Dear Amrita…Thank you so much for your kind words. I am really happy to know that you are doing photography from school days. That’s an amazing time to start I think. Because you will be able to explore lot of new things at that age…since it is the common tendency. I would suggest you to concentrate more and more on creative side of it than on the technical side…though it is important to know techniques to enable you to be creative 🙂

  4. Hi Prathap,
    following your blogs quite from beginning…. I am looking forward for an article on Infrared Photography and its post processing….


    1. Hi Arun…thank you for following my blog. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any experience in Infrared Photography. I may not be able to write an article atleast in the near future. But someday for sure 🙂 Sorry about that.

  5. Hi Prathab,

    A well written and easy to understand article for beginners like me. Looking forward for more. Best wishes..

  6. Hi,
    I am learning photography and i found your tips very useful. they are perhapes the best tutorial tips on basics of photography. thanks a tonne for providing such detailed explanations with examples. plz never stop this activity as you are best at this ..!! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Keval Desai. This blog is here to stay for a very long time to come 🙂

      Regarding your question about buying a Camera and Lens, I would suggest you to go with a camera that is in your budget (like Nikon D5100) and a kit lens like 18-55mm or similar. Start using the camera and take as many photographs as you like learn as much as you can about how to handle the camera and learn composition techniques.

      May be after few months or a year you would understand your real interest and your needs. Till then save your money for the best lenses. If you are really keen on going for one more lens, then it is 50mm f/1.8. If you confine yourself to one lens and start working on light and composition and the techniques you will be able to become better photographer.

      I would suggest you to think about wildlife photography a little later as things may be bit more expensive.

      1. Thank you so Much … !!
        I would like to share some of the pics with you..!!
        will mail you at your email 🙂
        thanks once again..!!

  7. Prathap,

    I’ve been following your newsletters for a while. I must say, they are simple, easy to understand, concise and mostly, very informative. We tend to forget the basic concepts in drawing out an image. Reading your article made me realize that one needs to slow down before going out to use the camera. As we all know, composition plays the most vital role in photography and your article helps a lot with it.
    I generally use rule of thirds whenever possible, and yes, curves whenever I find them. Keep sharing, you are doing a great job!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Vamsi. I really appreciate it.

      I think so too. Slowing down and getting to know light and composition techniques makes us better photographers. Digital cameras have made it so very easy to photograph that we hardly have time to study the basics thoroughly. IMHO true appreciation of any art comes when we really understand the core principles behind it.

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  10. This is the perfect site for everyone who really wants to understand this topic.
    You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I
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  11. In the paragraph shape it says that kids draw in 1 dimension shapes and I think that’s offensive because not all kids draw like that. Some children are advanced in drawing (like myself) so i think you should consider changing it to something else like inexperienced in drawing

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