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Composition and framing in Photography

Monday, 01.04.2010, 01:39am (GMT-5)

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Here are a few different styles of composition and framing in Photography including a few tips on how to break away from the norm, and create styles of your own!

Composing your photographs is very important, and can be the only thing to separate a good photo from a mediocre one. If you’re looking for ways to frame and compose your photo to make them really stand out, be sure to read through this entire guide as each technique can be easily forgotten.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is an old rule that applies to more art forms than just photography, but it has become a very common practice in the field — and in my experience has often worked for the better.

How it works is that the image can be split into 9 equally sized parts, divided by two vertical and two horizontal lines. The four lines create four intersections, which should serve as the main points of interest.

As you can see here I’ve mostly used the horizontal lines to divide this photograph into three different parts, the top one being the sky and skyline, the middle one is the ocean and and bottom third is filled with the foreground (which might be a bit harder to see on this smaller size). The left side is mostly empty space in all three sections — both when it comes to the stones in the water and the lights at the horizon.


Look for natural frames in the scenery you have, it can be anything at all; having some frames can do wonders for a photograph.

Try to never cut off a small part of an object, such as a person’s hand or the ear or tail of an animal. If you leave an entire arm outside the frame it usually doesn’t look odd, but if there’s something small like a hand missing the viewer will notice it in a different way — and it can be very distracting at times.

Lines and Shapes

Lines and shapes are everywhere; try to use them to your advantage. They can draw the viewer into the picture or they can guide the eyes to a point that you normally wouldn’t pay so much attention to. Both symmetrical and asymmetrical lines and shapes are a great asset.


Less is more! Focus on the small things instead of the entire scene — this obviously won’t work for every scene you’re shooting but as a quick rule it’s often good to keep your compositions clutter free and with less distractions. Use your best judgment!

If you ask me, the photograph on the left is nothing special at all while I personally really like the one on the right. The “only” difference here is that I isolated the object in the second photo, this helps the few things stands out more. Metal, stone, wood and water — simple and clean.

Empty space

Negative space should not be underestimated, it can be a great way to simplify your image and draw attention to a certain point in the photograph. Don’t be afraid to use empty spaces in your photographs. Empty spaces usually work very well in portraits as, just keep in mind that it’s often preferred that the model either looks towards you or into the space so to speak.

A common rule says that there should always be more space in front of a moving object than behind it. If there’s not enough space in front of the object we often get the mental picture that it’s going to crash.

Eye level

Try to photograph on the same height as your object, be it a child, a pet or a small bird. Instead of photographing the child from your viewpoint some 6 feet above ground try to get down on their level and get eye contact, this creates a totally different feeling as you become a part of their world. If you get down on their level they usually respond to you in a different way and this will often give you photographs that would not be possible for another angle.

Breaking the rules

Don’t be afraid to break these rules — always following the “rules” will result in uniform, and sometimes mundane photos — but it’s important that you understand the rules before you break them. Nothing new can come if we all do the same thing. Sure, these rules and tips have a reason for existing, they are often the recommended way of doing things because they are tested and have shown that they work in most situations, but that doesn’t mean you should always follow them.

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