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composition rules in photography

5 Rules Of Composition In Photography To Help You Improve

Understanding the ​rules of composition in photography and knowing how composition works is without doubt one of the best ways to improve yourself as a photographer. It's possible that composition is in fact more vital than choosing the actual subject itself.

When you really understand the rules of ​composition in photography you can take any kind of photo – with a good or bad subject – and make it a great one.

Today you will learn 5 rules of composition in photography that will drastically enhance your ​photography skills - no matter type of camera you have. ​

​Rules Of Composition In Photography 1 - A ​Clear Subject

Rules Of Composition In Photography

It might sound obvious but it is actually overlooked by so many people - you really need to have a clear subject in all of your photos.

If you don't have a clear subject people don't actually know what they're looking at or what the photo is about.

The human eye, and the brain, want to have something to focus on. They want to know what they are looking at.

If you have too many things going on in your photo and you don't have an easy-to-recognize subject, the brain can get restless and annoyed.

Remember, the ultimate goal of any photo is to keep people looking and to give people a sense of purpose. If you don't have a clear subject you can do neither of these.

In the photo above, it's very clear what the subject is - the lighthouse. 

​Rules Of Composition In Photography 2 - ​Frame Your Subject

rules of composition in photography

Another sure way to get great photos and make the most of key rules of composition in photography is to place your subject in a frame.

This just means using parts of the composition to act as a frame around your subject. It could be leaves, tree branches, or even an open window.

This simply adds impact and draws the eye to the subject. See my photo below for an example.

In the 2 photos above and below, I have framed the surfers with surrounding trees.

Rules Of Composition In Photography

​Rules Of Composition In Photography ​3 - ​Use Leading Lines

​Another really awesome element of composition in photography is leading lines.

Leading lines force the human eye to follow something and be drawn into the photo so that the eye is led directly to the subject.

Common lines in composition could be floorboards, railway tracks, rail tracks, or garden paths.

Anything that is a line and starts at or near the bottom of the frame and goes through to the centre or up to the top third where your subject is. I have written more extensively about leading lines in this post here.

You can even use shadows as your leading lines! See my photo below for an example.

rules of composition in photography

​Rules Of Composition In Photography ​4 - ​The Rule Of Thirds

​This is ​one of the most commonly known rules of composition in photography because it is flexible and it works.

It simply means dividing your photo into three vertical lines and three horizontal lines so that you have nine squares across your frame. Then you just place the subject on one of the lines – preferably on one of the intersecting lines on the right or left side.

This adds balance to the photo and also forces the human eye to look around the entire frame.
That's what you always want with your photos - people to look at the whole photo and not just a single subject smack bang in the centre.

In the photo below you can see that the sun is on the left vertical line, and the surfer on the right vertical line. This gives the photo balance.

Rules Of Composition In Photography

​Rules Of Composition In Photography ​5 - ​Use Different Perspectives

​One of the easiest ways to get interesting photos, and photos that are different from 99% of ones that other people take, is simply to change your perspective.

That means just changing the position of the camera (or your body) when you are taking a photo.

99% of people stand upright and put the camera in front of their eyes and then take a photo. Try getting down on your knees, or even lying down on the ground.

When you are at the mall or in a multistorey building, try looking up and taking a photo from below. Or the opposite, look down and take a photo from above.

Changing the angle and perspective of your photos brings a unique look to your shots and can turn the most boring subject into something far more interesting!

In the photo below I got about 2 inches from the branch, down on my hands and knees as the water rushed around me!

Rules Of Composition In Photography

​Today's Takeaways

​To sum up, here are the five rules of composition in photography that we talked about today.

  • 1. Have a clear, identifiable subject
  • 2. Try to frame your subject
  • 3. Make use of Leading Lines
  • 4. Take shots from different perspectives
  • 5. Understand and use the Rule of Thirds

Of course, you can't use all of these together all the time in every photo.

You need to decide which one is best for you at any given time. You can combine a couple of them, sure, but just knowing these techniques and practising them at different times will make you a much more complete and improved photographer over time.

For an example of combining 2 elements of composition in photography, check out the photo below. I've used the overflowing water as a leading line, taking the eye to the Shrine gate.

And I've used the rule of thirds, by placing the shrine gate in the top 3rd of the frame. And to the left.

Rules Of Composition In Photography

Grow Your Instagram Followers!

Most importantly, when you implement these new composition techniques and upload your much improved photos to places like Instagram, you are sure to get many many more likes.

This gets you more attention, which then helps get you more followers.

Understanding the composition rules in photography, and using them to improve my photography, was one of the best ways I went from a few hundred Instagram followers to 70,000. ​In 12 months!

Rules Of Composition In Photography

You can see the photo above (which I used earlier to talk about the rule of thirds) got over 2,000 likes on Instagram.

Brands love that and it's how you get sponsored and lots of free stuff.

So learning composition and using it to build your brand on places like Instagram is something that can really help you too.

If you'd like to know every single step I took to build my followers and turn lnstagram into a great 2nd income, just click on the button below.

Improve Your Smartphone Photography

Or if you just want to improve your smartphone photography, and become a better photographer with just a camera in your hand, I really recommend this simple course below.

The guy in the video is a little bit nerdy but wow, does he know his stuff!

I was quite embarrassed by how many things I didn't know could be done with smartphone cameras.

Now, using the techniques I learned from this course, I get 1,000's of likes on photos and lots of new followers and people sending me DMs asking me how I take such great pics with just a smartphone.

I really recommend you check it out if you have always wanted to be a great phone photographer. Just click the button below to learn more.

P.S. All the photos in this post were edited using Adobe Lightroom Presets and Brushes from Sleek Lens. I love and highly recommend their awesome pr​oducts for any kind of post-production editing. To check out their massive range and see the products in action, just click the pic below. 

Rules Of Composition In Photography

About the Author Iain Stanley

Hi there Iain here. I made this site simply because I want to find ways of adding multiple income streams to my life so I can retire early and live the good life. Why rely on one income when there are so many ways out there you can earn, especially online? So as I learn about them all, I want to pass my knowledge on to you so you can do the same. Here's hoping we can all retire early and go travel the world or sit by the ocean sipping cocktails!

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  • Eliane says:

    Very straight to the point and enlightening article.

    I had already learned about some of these 5 rules of composition, like Framing the Subject and the Rule of

    But using Leading Lines is completely new to me and it sure gives an incredible effect on the photos. I loved it!

    I’ll also forward your article to my husband and wife. They love taking pictures with their smartphones and posting on Social Media like Instagram and Facebook. I’m sure they’ll get a lot more likes from now on. 🙂

    Thank you so much!

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Absolutely welcome Eliane. Composition has so many different elements that you’re always learning. Please do share my post, it’s very much appreciated. I’m curious though, how will you share with your husband AND your wife? 🙂

  • Jojo says:

    Thank you for these great tips.
    I used to a lot into photography many years ago but I never heard of leading lines or the rule of thirds. In fact I never thought of them. Composition is really what separates an ok photo from a great photo. If you are really able to “lift out” your motive from the photo it can be very impressive.
    I just got a new Samsung mobile phone and I would like to start getting into taking some photos again. Upon reading your article I also stumbled upon the post of how to use your smartphone to take great photos and this made me really interested.

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Glad to hear you found value in my post Jojo. Regardless of whether you’re using a Galaxy smartphone or a high end DSLR, good composition is good composition. It’s an art in itself and understand different concepts and rules about what makes good composition can really make photography exciting and fun. Let me know if you need any help with your shooting!

  • Dusty says:

    I found your content very interesting. The pictures seemed to be excellent examples of the idea you are producing. Your layout was easy to read and navigate. I really enjoyed the content and the layout. Understanding the lines to set the perfect picture is not one I had realized. The set up was very helpful.

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Glad I could help Dusty. I took all those pictures using the leading lines technique, so I’m glad you found them easy to follow and relevant to the post. I hope they help you next time you’re out shooting, coz when you look around, you really can find examples of leading lines everywhere to spice up your compositions. 

  • Dusty says:

    I really think after reading this, I will be able to take better pics with my cell phone. Thank you for the information it was enlightening.

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Sure thing Dusty, happy to help. Composition plays a huge part in taking great photos but the great thing is, once you understand some of the composition rules, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you’re using 🙂

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