Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved
November 30, 2009

25 Photo Composition Tips

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS by Nicole Young, Rich Legg & Other iStock Contributors

One of the most common problems facing new photographers – and some of us OLD photographers – is finding a great composition. Like pizza, it’s a matter of taste, but there are some fairly standard agreed-upon guidelines for a good composition. On March 20 I wrote a piece for the blog called Five Composition Tips. I’ve decided to expand on this. I also want to note these are GUIDELINES, not rules. For each of these points you could make an opposite artistic argument. Go there if you must, but if you do, you miss the point of the list. Concentrate on the basics first, then you have earned the right to get fancy and ignore them.

1. Be clear on your subject. What story are you trying to tell with the photo?

2. Draw attention to the subject. This can be done by simply getting closer, by using selective focus, by using color, by lighting just the subject, by framing the subject in a doorway or window, etc.

3. Simplify. Simple is best. Remove anything that doesn’t help you tell the story.

4. When in doubt, leave it out. If there is something in your field of view that is not relevant to the subject or doesn’t somehow support the subject, get rid of it.

5. Check your negative space. Don’t leave too much negative space and when you do have negative space, be sure you use it right. Leave room for the subject in the frame unless you have a specific reason not to.

6. Fill the frame. You can rarely go wrong by filling the frame with the main subject. Many of the best pictures are the simplest ones. You don’t have to add background for the sake of adding background.

7. Check the edges of the frames. Don’t cut off feet or hands of your subject half way. If you want to exclude those appendages, make sure we know you meant to do so. Make a clean crop well above the wrist for instance if you don’t want to include the hands.

8. Check for intruders. Is there something popping into the picture from the side? Is there a tree branch, power line, telephone poll, etc., that creeps into the shot and steals attention from the subject? Re-compose and remove it.

9. Remember POV – Point of View. Shoot up on objects to make them more powerful. Shoot down on subjects to diminish them or make then look less imposing.

10. Use the rule of thirds. Draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board over your picture in your mind. Position the subject at one of the four intersecting corners in the grid.

11. When making portraits, always keep the eyes above the center line in the photo.

12. Strive for balance. Look at the composition and determine if there’s something out of place that tilts the viewer’s attention one way or the other.

13. The eye goes to the brightest part of the scene first. So don’t let anything in the photo other than the main subject be brighter than the subject.

14. Add depth by including strong foreground objects in shots where the background is also important.

15. Shoot vertically to enhance tall objects or to emphasize height. Shoot horizontally to emphasize width.

16. Use patterns, particularly repeating patterns to make pictures more interesting.

17. Use leading lines to attract the viewer’s eye where you want it to go.

18. Use S-curves or shapes as a more relaxed casual way to lead your eye through the composition. A road or a stream are good examples of this approach.

19. Start by shooting at your subject’s eye level. For example, get down low when making a child or animal’s portrait rather than standing over them and shooting down on them.

20. Make sure there is separation between multiple subjects to avoid unsightly merges.

21. Don’t center everything unless there’s a reason.

22. Don’t let the horizon fall dead center in the picture.

23. Don’t let the horizon cut through the head of any human or animal subject.

24. Don’t let the horizon merge with objects that are important to your image and make sure it is level.

25. Right before you make the photo take a second, look up, look down, look all around and make sure there’s nothing you’re missing.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 30 Comments

  1. […] was very interested in an article by Scott Bourne on Photofocus that discusses what to include in the composition of an image. I […]

  2. […] Photo Composition Tips « Photofocus 25 Photo Composition Tips « Photofocus. Most of the time I’d be happy if people would just fill the frame and not post anything […]

  3. […] 25 Photo Composition Tips ADDITIONAL PHOTOS by Nicole Young, Rich Legg & Other iStock Contributors One of the most common problems facing new […] […]

  4. […] Оригинал статьи на аглийском языке от Scott Bourne находится тут […]

  5. […] 25 Photo Composition Tips « Photofocus Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Photography: The Rules Of Composition […]

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  7. […] 1 December 2009 Top Members | Popular News 8 Likes Square 7 Likes 25 Photo Composition Tips « Photofocus 7 Likes 30 Highly Creative Blog Design Layouts | Spyre Studios These days blogs […]

  8. […] wrote up a list of 25 tips when composing a photo some time ago.  I highly recommend you check it out.  Whether you are new […]

  9. […] warmer composition tips and examples than I have shown, are explained in this  article I came across as […]

  10. […] 25 Photo Composition Tips В« Photofocus 25 Photo Composition Tips. November 30, 2009. tags: composition. by scottbourne. Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 – All … […]

  11. […] after doing some reading online about film/lomo/photography, my interest is much revived. Armed w 20 photo composition tips, I think I will bring MaoMao (毛毛) aka my UWS, and my jelly lens out tmr and play around w […]

  12. […] via […]

  13. […] via […]

  14. […] 25 Photo Composition Tips by photofocus […]

  15. […] get started. [And for those who are joining me on this endeavor the articles are pretty concise]. Photo Focus has a really neat article on composition with some great images for the visual learners. […]

  16. […] May Photo Challenge forced me to take photos of things other than my kids, I have found a website here that has a list of 25 composition tips for photography and I am going to work my way through them. […]

  17. […] to check what the photography tips for composition Number 2 was (see below) – it can be found here in this […]

  18. […] advantage, it behooves you to learn a little about composition. has a great piece on composition tips but the idea is that you use the angle and frame to emphasize the subject of the photo. Shooting […]

  19. […] find art books on composition the most interesting. Here's a link to some tips to get you started: 25 Photo Composition Tips | Photofocus My general advice is to have fun and experiment; treat your camera like a toy. You have 100,000 […]

  20. […] Link: […]


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