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8 Rules of Photography Composition

When we talk about the composition of photography we are referring to the placement of relative objects and elements in an image. Composition guides the viewer’s eyes towards the most important elements in a photograph. A great composition can make even the dullest objects or the plainest environments into a work of art. Likewise, a bad composition can ruin a photograph no matter how interesting the subject may be. Unfortunately, a bad composition cannot be fixed in post-processing. Cropping the image can sometimes save it but only when a tighter frame is the solution. For more advanced photo editing you can remove objects by using the Clone Tool in ACDSee Ultimate 9, ACDSee Pro 9 and ACDSee 19. Ideally, we want to plan out our composition before taking the shot to achieve the best possible composition.

1. Rule of Thirds

Imagine a grid, much like a tic tac toe board, placed on your image. The rule of thirds states that you should place whatever is most interesting or eye-catching in the photo on the intersection of the lines on the photo. When shooting portraits decide which of the subject’s eyes is the focal point of the image and then adjust the framing of the photo until the eye is on the intersection of the grid.

Similarly, when shooting a landscape, you want to create a sense of depth. If there is an interesting element in the foreground, place it on the bottom-right or bottom-left intersection of the frame. If there is no foreground element try placing the horizon on the top or bottom third-line so that the horizon doesn’t cut the picture in half.

Rule of Thirds

2. Framing

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, windows, and doors to help isolate the main focus of the image.


3. Leading Lines

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn to lines. You can affect the way people view the image, pulling focus towards the subject or guiding them through the scene.

Leading Line

4. Viewpoint

Our viewpoint has a huge impact on the composition of our photo. Changing the viewpoint can completely change the mood or tone of the photo. Instead of just shooting from eye level, try photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, and from close up. Mix it up!


5. Background

How many times have you taken a shot that would otherwise be a great, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? I’ve done this too many time to count. When looking at a scene our brain quickly picks out subjects of interest. When photographing a scene, the camera captures everything in front of it, tending to flatten the foreground and background. Luckily this can be solved by either selecting a plain and unobtrusive background or changing the depth-of-field to blur out the background so it doesn't distract from the subject.


6. Depth

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we want to convey a sense of depth in the scene. You can create depth by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.


7. Symmetry & Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns which can make for very eye-catching compositions. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, creating a focal point to the scene.


8. Fill the Frame

Often when shooting a large-scale scene, it can be difficult to know how big your subject should be relative to your frame, and how much you should zoom in. A very common mistake is to leave too much empty space in a scene, which makes your subject smaller than it needs to be and distracts from the focus. Don’t be afraid to zoom in or get closer to your subject, it will make a world of difference.

Fill the Frame

Give these composition rules a try and see the difference they make in your photography. Happy Shooting!

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