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The Five Basic Rules of Shot Composition

The Five Basic Rules of Shot Composition

Written 4 years ago by Guest Contributor

The following guest article was contributed by Richard Hemby who frequently writes about online colleges and online photography degrees.

While rules are often made to be broken in the field of photography, most experts agree that five basic composition guidelines will produce higher quality photographs and provide visual interest to your shots. By incorporating these guidelines into your photographs, you can ensure that you capture not only the elements you are photographing, but also the artistic design that you wish to capture.

Simplicity

Many of the best photographs concentrate on a few basic elements. By highlighting only those components that add to your composition, you can focus the viewer’s attention precisely where you want it. Avoid cluttered backgrounds; by changing the angle or the perspective and getting up close to your subject, you can often produce a photograph that is visually stunning and has no distracting or extraneous elements that reduce the impact of your composition. Professionals often position the primary component of their photograph off-center to add even more visual interest to the finished product.

Simplicity by korafotomorgana

Simplicity by korafotomorgana

Rule of Thirds

Professional photographers know that each shot is composed of three different spatial elements. The foreground, middle-ground and background are all present in most landscape shots; by noting and incorporating this into shot composition, photographers can create visual appeal by naturally drawing the eye to the middle ground and focusing attention exactly where the photographer intends. By manually setting exposure levels and deliberately selecting shots with these elements, amateurs and professionals alike can create works of art, rather than mere photographs. We have a more in depth article on the rule of thirds here.

Rule of Thirds

Balance

While balancing the physical components of a photograph is important, another aspect that is often overlooked is balancing the colors present in the shot. Color theory is an essential element in the art of photography. Shots that focus heavily on first-order colors, also known as primary colors, tend to be more dramatic. Certain colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, should usually be employed sparingly and limited to one or two elements of the shot since they tend to attract the eye and create dynamic tension within the photograph. Too many high-energy colors, especially in contrast to each other, can overwhelm the viewer and cause anxiety rather than producing the visual effects desired; by balancing strong tones with neutral ones, a more balanced composite shot can be achieved.

Balance by Nicolas Ariel Zonvi

Balance by Nicolas Ariel Zonvi

Framing

Professional shot composition requires perfect framing of each shot. This requires the inclusion of elements that give perspective to the main focus of the photograph. By being aware of the various components when composing a shot, the photographer can produce high-quality shots that include all the important elements while excluding extraneous material. Photography is the art of including some things while omitting others; this is the main object of framing. By choosing the elements to include, photographers engage in editing before the shot; by cropping the photograph after processing, the editing process continues afterward as well. Not only can you frame with your lense, you can also use objects in nature to frame.

Framing by Mike Goren

Framing by Mike Goren

Lines

Natural lines present in the shot composition, whether intentional or not, can give an added sense of depth and perspective to the photograph. By paying attention to these lines and using them to advantage to draw attention to the focal point of the shot, photographers can create tension and drama in their photographs and make a visual statement with each composition. Diagonal lines tend to create visual paths to lead the eye to the focal point; repetitive lines, on the other hand, are often interpreted by the eye as background, bringing the main focus into sharp relief against the repeated pattern of lines.

Lines by Trey Ratcliff

Lines by Trey Ratcliff

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Comments
cchana  4 years ago

some great tips, simplicity is one of the best tips here, i often find myself trying to fit way too much in to a shot!

LaurenB  4 years ago

This is great! Basic skills are very important, well outlined.

Jason  4 years ago

This is more like it.
Fantastic tips and photographs for the budding amateur.
One of the better sites I’ve seen.
I’m inspired.
Thanks

Jason Collin Photography  4 years ago

I like the order you introduced the rules in. I would definitely teach lines last out of those composition techniques.

Allen Trottier  4 years ago

Great Tips! As a newb in the photography game, I often forget the basics.

Thanks

Radu  4 years ago

I would add “texture”… it’s somewhat complementary to “lines” but I think it’s worth mentioning.
Cheers.

Girish Bhardwaj  3 years ago

Thiss real common sense & simplicity applie which 99% of the world does not hae

deeksha  3 years ago

awesome tips for perfect photography……thanks

ajith  3 years ago

brilliantly told..surely these rules can create magic

Theo  3 years ago

awesome!
Thanks a lot!

sabari nath  1 year ago

superb….

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