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Author: Bried Collins

Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art. In photography this is achieved by placing physical objects to form a scene or moving to capture the best angle.  There are several guidelines to follow to help improve your composition.

1. The rule of thirds

The frame should be divided into nine sections by horizontal and vertical lines, the main subject should be placed on one of the intersecting lines. Make sure your subject has room to look into the frame and space in the direction of their movement.

2. Create depth

Having fore, middle and background creates depth to your image as well as drawing the eye through the image. Adding water to the foreground can lighten your shot as well as adding an extra element of reflection.

Create depth

The focal length of your lens will make a difference to the depth of field of your image.

3. Frame within a frame

Frames have various uses when it comes to composition. Frames can be man-made, for example, bridges, arches or fences or naturally occurring frames, like tree branches or river banks. They can even be human/animal parts such as antelope antlers or hands around a face.

Frame within a frame

A fantastic representation of composition by having a frame within a frame with this giraffe peeking through a tree.

4. Cutting off limbs

Keep an eye on the edges of your frame to make sure that the person/animal you are photographing doesn’t have any limbs cut off.

Lead lines

Look for low angles and composition techniques such as leading lines to further emphasise the grandeur and importance of your subject.

5. Make the most of lead lines

Our eyes are unconsciously drawn to lines in an image. You can put various focus points along the line or you can put one main focus point at the end of the line. Similarly, you can use shapes, for example, by placing a focal point at each point of a triangle.

6. Fill the frame, or crop

If your image is in danger of losing impact because of busy or distracting background, then crop it tight around your main point of focus.

7. Look for symmetry or patterns

Incorporating patterns into your photographs is always a good way to creating a pleasing composition. Patterns suggest symmetry and are visually attractive. Textures can also be very pleasing on the eye.

This is not an exhaustive list and it would be impossible to have all of these guidelines on your mind every time you go out with your camera. A good exercise to begin with would be to think of one or two each time you go out to shoot then after a while you will find that they become ingrained and you are using them instinctively.