Using basic composition techniques to level up your photos is a crucial skill every photographer needs to know.
Composition influences how viewers perceive and connect with your images.
It goes beyond technical skills and equipment—it’s about how elements within a photograph interact with each other. Think about negative space, trees, skylines, fences, buildings, any environmental element, and how it adds to or takes away from the subject in your images. What if you could use all these things to tell a greater story within your images? Pretty cool right?
Understanding a few basic composition principles will elevate your photographs, drawing people in and making them more memorable. It’s the wow factor that most photographers forget about using! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to fine art photography, check out my favorite three composition techniques to better capture the storytelling images we all love.
Imagine overlaying a tic-tac-toe grid on your camera’s viewfinder or screen, creating nine equally sized rectangles. This grid helps you visualize where to position important elements within the frame. (i.e.- your subject!)
By aligning subjects or points of interest with the gridlines or their intersections, you can give a sense of balance and harmony to your images. It’s going beyond the traditional center-punch to make the photo more dynamic and engaging.
Don’t get me wrong, we need centered images, just like we need smiling at the camera photos. But we have to be able to break out of that in order to create a strong gallery that serves our clients, and our creativity, well.
Pro Tip: Turn on the grid in your viewfinder to make using the rule of thirds easier than ever! Place subjects or points of interest at the cross points when possible for maximum effect.
Leading lines serve as visual pathways that lead the viewer’s eye from one part of the photograph to another. Think of a bridge, fence, tree line, sidewalk or river pointing the viewer in the direction of the subject. This gives a sense of direction and flow while adding depth.
Using leading lines physically draws the viewer into the photo, making them feel instantly connected to the subject. How cool is that!?
Tips on how to use leading lines in photography
Notice how the stairs direct you to the open gate like a warm invitation. Welcoming the viewer into this families home and story!
Like leading lines use elements to point to a subject, framing uses elements within the image, such as natural or man-made objects, to surround or enclose the main subject. Think of a visual border right there in the photo.
Notice how the trees form a natural arch to frame the subject while the leading lines on the path point right to them.
Examples of Natural Frames:
Photography is an art that thrives on practice and experimentation. Take one of these principles and incorporate it into your next session. But don’t feel like you have to master using composition in one day. Bookmark this to come back to and with a little bit of consistent practice you won’t believe how far you’ve come.
Experiment with different scenarios, subjects, and settings to fully grasp the potential of each principle. In other words, you have permission to play! Never forget you are an artist with incredible vision and potential. Now get out there and start shooting!