Take Better Pictures a Guide to Composition

Since the advent of the smart phone everyone has become a photographer.  We should all strive to take better pictures because no one wants to see out of focus, blurry photos. Even if you only ever take selfies on your phone you might learn a few things from this guide to composition and what better way to showcase yourself than when you take better pictures.

Keen photographers know the basic guides to composition and good photographers will use them in combination to create stunning works of art.  For other these rules or guides may come naturally and you may be using them without realising. But for others knowing and using a few rules will enhance our picture taking no end.  Read on and pick up a few tips to help you take better pictures.

Rule of Thirds

Dartmoor Photographer - Rule of ThirdsThis is probably the most well known rule and one that came make or break a photograph.  Imagine a noughts and crosses grid over your scene, if you struggle most cameras and phones have guides that you can switch on to help you.  When you are composing your photo put your subject at the intersection of these lines so it’s not in the middle and not on the edge.  If you are photographing a landscape put the horizon near one of the horizontal lines.  If you are taking a portrait put the eyes of your subject on the intersection.  Play around to see which one works best.

Lead in Lines

Dartmoor Photographer - Lead in LinesOnce you’ve mastered rule of thirds look for ways to draw your eye into the picture, this is lead in lines.  If you are photographing a street, use the lines or the curb edge to draw you to the focal point.  The line of shadows on the beach hut picture draws you around the picture.

Level Horizon

Dartmoor Photographer - Level HorizonThere is nothing worse than a photo with a sloping horizon, unless you are photographing a hillside.  It is such a quick and easy fix, use the guides on your camera if you struggle to help.  If this fails a quick edit in a piece of software after the event will fix the problem and give you a better picture.

Face Your Subject into the Picture

Dartmoor Photographer - Face Subject into PictureOnce you have positioned your subject on the third (see above) make sure it is facing into the picture, so there is more photograph in the direction it is looking or moving than behind it.

Change of Perspective

Dartmoor Photographer - Change of PerspectiveOne thing you will notice about photographers is their obsession with kneeling on the floor.  This is all about changing your perspective to take better pictures.  So don’t just take your photo head on standing up, explore the alternatives, get down low, climb up high, look from the left and from the right.  You will be surprised at the difference it makes.

Foreground Interest

Dartmoor Photographer - Foreground InterestYou’ve spotted a lovely landscape in the distance.  Ask yourself; is there enough there to keep the viewer interested or does it need something else?  If you put something in the foreground this will add interest for the eye and enhance the scene you first saw.

Space to Breathe

Dartmoor Photographer - Space to BreatheIt is always a good idea to fill the frame when you are taking a picture.  Lots of subjects loose impact if you can’t see them in context, so leave some space around your subject.  If you feel later you’ve left too much space you can always crop it. Plus a bit of space will help if you have to correct a wonky horizon and need to crop the edges of your picture a bit.


Dartmoor Photographer - SymmetryOk I know I said put your photography subject off-centre to create a more pleasing picture but there are times when you can ignore the rule of thirds.  If you have a truly symmetrical scene, like a perfect reflection or a building, find a centre line and get everything dead centre to create a image with impact.

Rule of Odds

Dartmoor Photographer - Rule of OddsI don’t know why it is, but groups of odd numbered objects are more pleasing to the eye then even numbers. So if you are photographing a group of objects chose a group of three or five over an even number.

On the Diagonal

Dartmoor Photographer - On the DiagonalDiagonal lines in images can give a picture more interest than perpendicular to the edges of the frame.  This is because the eye gets drawn around the image rather then in one side and out the other.  Give it a go and see what you think.  This doesn’t work with horizons though (see above).



Now that you are armed with a few simple guides to composition you can go out and take better pictures.  Once you have mastered them you will start to use them in combination to create great pictures with impact.  Don’t be afraid to experiment when taking pictures, it is ok to delete images that don’t work.  Sometimes it is also ok to break the rules in pursuit of taking better pictures.

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