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Let’s talk Composition

The information in this column is intended to assist digital camera users, and attempts to look at those items that are common on all digital camera’s such as point-and-shoot, DSLR’s, mirror- less, and yes, even your cell phone.

It’s time to step up your game. This is the most effective way to improve your images, making them much more interesting than snapshots. We are going to discuss composition techniques.

There are number of established composition guidelines which can be applied in almost any situation, to enhance the impact of a scene.

These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs, lending them a natural balance, drawing attention to the important parts of the scene, or leading the viewer's eye through the image.

Once you are familiar with these composition tips, you'll be surprised at just how universal most of them are. You'll spot them everywhere, and you'll find it easy to see why some photos "work".

As seen in the example image I took at the 2017 Genesee Valley Hunt, I have combined a number of these principles. I wanted to make the white horse and its rider the main subject of this image. You can see both the before and after images

I first cropped the image to show just the “exciting” parts

  • I used the “Rule of Thirds” as seen on the grid overlying the image to place the lead horse and rider on the left vertical line with the horses head almost right on the cross hair of the top horizontal line.

  • I also used the rule of thirds to place the fence line almost on the bottom horizontal line

  • I used leading lines to draw the eye , using the lines of the lead horse, back to the trailing horse,

  • I balanced the jumping lead horse with the horse and rider behind them to fill the frame

  • I positioned myself to ensure that the background would not be distracting from the final image

  • We can see the fence providing a pattern which lends stability to the image, which is then “broken” with the white horse providing another pattern with its legs complementing the vertical fence post on the left.

All of this put together provides us with a “story”

Rule of Thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo.

Balancing Elements

Placing your main subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You can achieve a balanced composition and even out the main subject's "visual weight" by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

Leading Lines

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place these leading lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey "through" the scene.

There are many different types of line - straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc - and each can be used to enhance our photo's composition.

Symmetry and Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.


How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting - look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn't distract or detract from the subject.


The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.


Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background "noise", ensuring the subject gets the viewer's undivided attention.

If anybody has any questions they would to see discussed, please contact me through our FaceBook page @LakeCountryEcho or my page at @MrEPhotographer.

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