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Photography Basics – Composition

Updated on September 4, 2012

Welcome back.

This is our 3rd lesson of the Photography Basics course and here you can learn some composition tips to help you on your photography journey.

Since composition is one of the key aspects of photography it is important to learn some basic techniques, as well as some things to avoid.

We all know that art is just a matter of personal opinion, but, for those people who are just starting, some little tips can help them get a good start.

We will mainly talk about the rule of thirds and how framing a scence can get the viewer's attention.

Your main subject should be close to the lines intersections
Your main subject should be close to the lines intersections

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds first appeared on Remarks on Rural Scenery, by painter John Thomas Smith, in the 18th century.

It is basicaly a guideline to help you compose your images. When taking your pictures, you should create an imaginary grid split in 9 parts of equal size and in the intersections of the lines is where you should place your subject.

Look at the example to check what it is all about.

The trick is, the way our perception works, we tend to look first at those spots of a frame, rather then the center.

Breaking the rule of thirds

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

In certain scenes, the subject is better place at the center of the frame, instead of the grid intersections. But, usualy, these are very specific cases.

Let's say you want to take a picture of a road, expressing it's lenght, or some intimidating portrait of someone looking straight at the viewer. In these situations, you might want to try placing your subject in the center of the frame.

The big hole in the rocks draw the viewer's attention to the ship
The big hole in the rocks draw the viewer's attention to the ship | Source


Framing your photo with surrounding objects can help you guide the eye of the viewer to the main subject.

This can be achieved in many different ways. You can use an opened window and shoot, from inside your home, a beautifully framed landscape; or you can get nature to aid you, by shooting a bird standing on a branch, framed by the tree leaves in the foreground.

You just have to use your imagination and see what frames you can get from your surrounding.

Things to avoid

When taking your picture, take a good look to check if there are some things in the background that can be distracting. This can really ruin a good shot.

Before pressing the shutter button, keep your horizon horizontal. Although you can fix it in a post editing software, sometimes, when cropping the picture, you can lose interesting details.

Avoid touching edges. For example, when the horizon line touches the edge of the main subject, that can turn the picture a bit strange. Avoid this by lowering or rising you camera so the edges don't touch themselves.

Shoot around noon only when you want hard shadows. At this time of the day, the sun will be really high and shadows really dark, so avoid shooting in these conditions if you want a soft scene.

Experiment and have fun

Although tips are valuable for someone who is starting photography, nothing can be better than experimenting and practicing.

Have fun trying new angles. Look at your mistakes, laugh, and do better next time.

Thank you for viewing this lesson.

The next step will be editing your photos on the computer. For this, you will need appropriate software; some are expensive, some are cheap and others are free. But for simple correction, you don't need complicated applications.

Jump to the next lesson, or go back to the introduction to check all the tutorials.


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    • nenytridiana profile image

      nenytridiana 5 years ago from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia

      Thank you for your information. I am the beginner of photographer, I always wonder why my shooting result is kind of strange, I mean not like what I expected. I learn about horizon here. Great work pcabral.