Importance of Composition For Impactful Photography

Importance of Composition For Impactful Photography

Oversized moon rising over the sunset and trees created by combining multiple photos in photoshop

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All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted. 

This blog post may contain affiliate links.  I may earn a small commission for any purchases made through these links. Click here for the disclosure statement.

All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted.

Composition techniques are crucial for any talented photographer. Lighting, color saturation, and framing are critical elements that will make or break a photograph. Composition plays a crucial role in tying everything together and making a cohesive picture that looks well-planned and beautiful. This article will explore what you need to know about composition techniques in order to take better-looking photos.

Photography Composition Meaning

Composition is the arrangement of  photo elements in a way that is visually appealing to the viewer. The is the underlying key to creating beautiful photos because composition determines how your photo looks and feels to the viewer. Without good composition, your photos may be visually uninteresting or lack emotional pull. There are many techniques that you can use for composing your photos, and learning about them is crucial to taking great-looking pictures.

Photography Composition Techniques

Foreground, middle ground, background

Sun setting on the open road through the desert mountains
In this example, the road is in the foreground, the grassland in the middlegrund, and the mountains in the background.

In photo composition, there are three layers that make up a photo: foreground, middle ground, and background. The foreground is the closest layer to the camera, the middle ground is in the middle of the photo, and the background is the furthest layer from the camera. Pacing something of interest in each of these layers can create depth and visual interest in your photos.

Symmetry

White Longhorn
This example represents vertical symmetry where the left side is almost identical to the right side, with the exception of the tail.

When it comes to photo composition, symmetry can be a powerful tool used to create a sense of order and balance in an image, making it feel more harmonious and visually appealing. Symmetry works best when you want to showcase something symmetrical in your photo, such as a building or a row of trees. However, it can also create tension and interest in an image, as opposed to simply creating a sense of calm.

Golden Spiral

Trees shading iconic white tombstones of Arlington National Cometary. Composition is a great example of  the golden spiral 
Notice how the tree branches follow the line of the spiral as it leads the viewers eyes to the tombstones, which are the main focal point of this image.

The golden spiral is a type of compositional theory that can create more visual interest in your photos. It applies the Fibonacci mathematics scale, where each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. The mathematics behind the theory are confusing, but it’s just suggesting that you can create more visual interest by composing points of interest along the lines or intersecting points. You can use leading lines that follow the spiral and have the subject at the spiral intersection. You can also use it like the rule of thirds and place the area with the most details in the smallest box of the coil.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are a photo composition technique that uses lines to draw the viewer’s attention towards the photo’s primary subject. They do this by creating a visual path that leads the eye towards the subject by using objects in the photo to create lines, whether they be actual lines, curves, or implied lines. These lines can lead the viewer’s eye in any direction and can be especially effective for landscapes and cityscapes.

Depending on the type of line you use, it can take the viewer on a journey as the eye follows a curved line, give a sense of stability or instability, or provide a direct path to the subject. Leading lines is one of the most critical composition techniques that can be applied to strengthen the composition of other rules on this list.

Muir Woods Walking Path in San Francisco California
Using paths and roads are a common way to utilize leadings lines

The Rule of Thirds

Barred owl with eye and beak positioned on intersecting lines to demonstrate rule of thirds
The eye and the beak are placed on the intersections of a rule of thirds grid.

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic and well-known compositional techniques that divide a photo into an evenly spaced 3×3 grid. The rule states that you should place the subject on the lines or the intersections in order to have a more interesting photo. Another rule is the Golden ratio, which divides the photos into 1:1.62 grid, which is a 3×3 grid where the lines are more compressed towards the than in the rule of thirds. The golden ratio works the same as the rule of thirds, but provides a different visual appeal with the subject more centered.

Fill the Frame

Blue Hydrangeas
There is no negative space, the subject fills the entire frame. Subjects in fill the frame should fill all or most o f the frame.

Fill the frame is a photo composition technique that is used to avoid unwanted objects or distractions in photos. This technique is simple, as it requires the photographer to make sure that whatever is taking center stage in the photo fills up most of the photo from top to bottom and left to right. This will keep any unnecessary distractions out of your photo composition!

Frame Within A Frame

Three trees form a frame within a frame around the soft flowing water of Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite National Park
The trees form a natural boarder around the waterfall

Frame within a frame is a composition technique that uses objects or contrast in a scene frame the subject. This highlights the subject to create a more interesting photo composition. You can use an object, such as a window or door, that will act as a frame. A more subtle frame occurs naturally in the scene, such as the contrast between lights and shadows or trees.

Golden Triangle

 A coffee cup resting on vintage books and a plant are placed on the intersecting lines of the golden triangle composition technique.
The coffee mug and the plant are placed at the intersections

The golden triangle photo composition is one of the most popular composition techniques used by photographers. It is a simple yet effective way to create a well-balanced photo. The technique involves positioning your subject at the intersection of three lines that create four triangles, or use leading lines that follow the lines that create the triangles.

Rule of Odds

Three Sandhill Cranes Taking Off in unison

The rule of odds in photography composition states that if you have an odd number of objects in your photo, it will be more aesthetically pleasing than if you have an even number of objects. This is because an odd number of objects creates a more dynamic photo composition.

Negative Space Composition

Wildlife photograph of a Screech Owl

Negative space is the unoccupied space around the subject and is an important composition tool that can create powerful images. By using the empty space in your photo to your advantage, you can create more depth and dimension, which adds visual interest to your photos. This can be a really effective way to isolate and emphasize the main subject.

Composing with Colors

When it comes to photo composition, colors are an important tool that can be used to create a more powerful image. Color composition is the use of colors within the photo to create a certain feeling or mood. You can use color to draw attention to the subject, set the tone of the photo, or create a certain atmosphere.

When composing with colors, it’s important to think about the color wheel and how different colors interact with each other. You can use complementary colors to create contrast and tension in your photo, analogous colors for a harmonious photo, or split complementary colors for more interest.

Orange and blue sunset reflecting in the water as birds fly by at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Orange and blue are opposite each other on the color wheel and create an appealing and calm aesthetic in this image

Repetition

Display of Three Bonsai Trees

One way to create a more visually interesting photo composition is by using repetition by repeating objects or patterns in the photo. This will add unity and stability to the photo composition.

Minimalism

Geometric Tile Wall with a window demonstrates patterns and textures and the rule of thirds

Minimalist composition is a photo composition technique that is used to create a more simple and elegant photo. Create a minimalist feel by removing any unnecessary objects from the photo or use negative space to your advantage and simplify the photo to its most essential elements.

Juxtaposition

Street photography of a homeless man sleeping under a bench tells ironic story of society and homelessness
The juxtaposition of a man and a statue tells a more powerful story than if there had been two people, no statue, or no man

Juxtaposition is when two or more objects in the photo that are visually contrasting are placed next to each other. This can be done with colors, themes, shapes, identities, ideologies, or any two subjects that don’t logically belong together. This will add tension and visual interest to the photo composition.

Improve your composing Tips

Know the Focal Points

The focal point is the most important part of the photo. It is what you want the viewers to see and focus on. If you don’t know what your focal point is, it will be difficult to compose the photo correctly. You may end up with a cluttered or unfocused photo.

Fix in Post Processing

Photo editing tools such as Lightroom have guides in the crop tool to help you reframe the shot perfectly in post processing. If you didn’t get it just right when taking the photo, or saw a better composition later, use those tools to help you.

Analyze Other Photographs

Looking at other people’s photos can help improve your own photography skills. Analyzing the composition of other photographers’ work helps you learn how to frame shots better, use light to your advantage, and create a more aesthetically pleasing photo. So next time you’re feeling stuck or like your photos could use some improvement, look at some inspiring photos from other photographers!

Actively Try Different Compositions

There are a few reasons you should challenge yourself with new compositions. First, it can help you improve your photography skills. If you always stick to the same techniques, you’ll learn nothing new and your photos will start to look stale. Second, it can help you come up with new ideas for photos. By trying new composition techniques, you’ll see things in a new light and come up with creative ideas for photos that you wouldn’t have thought of before. So next time you’re feeling stuck or like your photos could use some improvement, try experimenting.

Trust Your Gut

When it comes to photography, trusting your gut can be the difference between a good photo and a great photo. Often, the best compositions come when you simply let your intuition guide you. A scene caught your eye for a reason – there was something innately beautiful about it. If you second-guess yourself or try to over-think things, you may end up with a photo that’s not as good as it could have been. So next time you’re taking photos, try to relax and let your instincts take over. You may be surprised at the great shots you’ll start taking!

Learn The Fundamentals Of Composition

As a photographer, it’s important to learn the rules of composition. Composition makes or breaks a photo, and if you don’t understand the basics of how to compose a photo, your shots will look unpolished. By learning the rules of composition, you’ll be able to create well-framed and aesthetically pleasing photos that will wow your friends and family. 

 

The photo composition techniques that you choose to use in your photo should be tailored to the photo itself. Therefore, it’s always best to experiment with different photo composition techniques until you find one or more that work well for each photo. The golden spiral, for example, may not be the best compositional theory for all photos. But used sparingly and in the right photo, it can create a sense of order and balance that makes for a photo that’s visually appealing to the eye.

Author Bio

Author Bio Image

Delaney is a project manager by day and a travel and wildlife photographer by night who is using her skills for translating complex technical language into easy to understand concepts to make photography achievable at all skill levels. You have questions; she has answers.

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