Do your photographs draw the viewer into the image? Where does the viewer’s eye go to in your image? Where is the subject of your photograph?

Composition is one of the most important elements in creating a pleasing image that captures the viewer’s attention and draws them into the image, ultimately landing on the subject of the photograph. For some people, amazing composition seems to come naturally and every photograph they take makes you say ‘wow’ and other folks will share images that leave you wondering what they were trying to focus on.

Here are three easy tips to creating better composition in your photographs whether you are using your mobile phone camera or professional-grade equipment. Quite simply, good composition can make a photograph by even the most novice photographer great. Grab your camera and let’s get started!

1. Rule of thirds – This is the basis for well-balanced and interesting photographs. The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine third equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines in your viewfinder or on your LCD. You will now see that there are four spots where the lines intersect creating the intersections where you will want to try and place the subject of your image. Placing your subject at one of these points will keep you from placing your subject in the middle of the image and making the overall impact of the image more interesting. Darren Rowse of Digital Photography School {a great photography resource at} recommends photographers keep the rule of thirds in mind as they edit their photos later on. Post production editing tools today have good tools for cropping and reframing images so they fit within the rules. Lastly, you can always break any rules of photography, especially to better understand why they are a rule in the first place, but this one is generally a good one not to break.

2. Leading lines – Using the natural lines of your image to draw the viewer’s eye and focus toward the subject can add interest and drama to an otherwise boring photo. As you are composing your image using the rule of thirds look for any lines that extend from outside the frame of your photo into the image such as walls, roads, paths, and even arms and legs. These elements will show the viewer where you want their eyes to travel through your photo. If you need examples of leading lines just Google ‘leading lines photography definition’.

One of the easiest ways to direct your viewer to the subject of your photo and even beyond it is with leading lines. Even if your image doesn’t have a definite subject you can use leading lines to guide the viewer through the image. Leading lines don’t have to be physical things. They can simply be light and shadows as Jason Row points out in his article, Leading Lines as a Compositional Tool for Better Photographs on the Light Stalking website {another great resource}.

3. Subject placement – This isn’t about where in the viewfinder or LCD you place your subject, but about where in the scene your subject is located. When attempting to achieve a pleasing composition it is often easy to overlook the elements surrounding your subject such as trees, telephone poles, other people, animals and bright spots or dark shadows. Julie Waterhouse mentions ‘merging’ on her website as two objects that overlap one another to create something very distracting and bizarre. Everyone has seen a photograph where it looks like a plant is growing out of someone’s head or there is an odd body part in the frame. {Photobombing is another matter!}

Scan the entire image through the viewfinder or LCD and look for any distractions. If you don’t find any, that’s terrific. Chances are there will be something distracting and if you can move your subject and still have a great image, try that. If not, then you may need to change your position.
Following these three simple tips can immediately improve your photography and make your images stand out.

Lisa Gifford Mueller

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