20 photography composition methods that novices must master

For photography, composition is an important factor to express the content of a work. It is the process of determining and organizing elements to produce harmonious pictures. Learning composition is like learning a language. Once you learn a language, it becomes a subconscious behavior, which will help you create better pictures.

In this article, the editor has sorted out 20 kinds of composition methods, some of which are common and some of which you may not have been exposed to. So whether you are a novice or an old driver, you should not miss this tutorial.

1. Trisection

The three-way composition should be the most common and basic composition method. This composition method is to divide the picture into 9 equal squares with 4 straight lines. This kind of composition is vivid and concise. At present, most digital cameras and even mobile phones have built-in Jiugongge auxiliary composition line, which is suitable for various shooting subjects, such as landscapes and characters.

In the following two examples, the main trees and churches in the picture are placed on the frame line respectively. Similarly, the horizontal line is also placed on the part of the frame line. This is a very typical three-way composition, which makes the main body of the picture very clear.

2. Symmetrical composition

Symmetrical composition has the characteristics of balance, stability and echo, but its disadvantages are too rigid and lack of change. It is often used to represent symmetrical objects, buildings and objects with special styles.

The picture below shows a bridge. According to the symmetry of the bridge itself, it is very suitable to use symmetrical composition to shoot.

In the following picture, we actually use the combination of trisection and symmetrical composition. In this kind of scene with water surface, we can combine the ground and reflection well by using the symmetrical composition.

3. Prospect and depth

The picture itself is a plane, but if you add a foreground to the picture and shoot it at a wide angle, there will be a sense of depth, so as to achieve the 3D effect.

4. Frame composition

Selecting a frame-type foreground can lead the audience’s attention to the scenery in the frame, highlight the main body, and also create a sense of depth. Surrounding the subject image and forming a framework can create a mysterious atmosphere, just like a person peeping at a place from a hiding place. The frame-type composition helps to integrate the main image with the landscape, giving the photos greater visual impact.

The following picture is taken in the square of San Marco in Venice. In the picture, the arch frames the church and bell tower of San Marco. It is a common painting method in the Renaissance to frame the scenery through the arch.

The frame is not necessarily an arch or a window, it can also be a trunk or a leaf. The picture below was taken in Kildale County, Ireland. The trunk and grass frame the bridge and house in the distance, which adds a depth to the picture.

5. Guide line

The guiding line composition method is to use the lines in the picture to guide the viewer’s eyes, so that his eyes can finally converge to the focus of the picture. Of course, the guide line is not necessarily a specific line. As long as it is directional and continuous, we can call it a guide line. In real life, roads, rivers, neatly arranged trees, colors, shadows and even human eyes can be used as guide lines.

For example, in this picture of the Eiffel Tower, the paving stone is used as the guide line to bring the audience’s eyes to the Eiffel Tower. In this picture, the central symmetry composition method is also used.

The guide line is not necessarily straight. As shown in the figure below, the curved road extends to the position of the tree, which can also drive the audience’s eyes.

6. Diagonal and triangle

Diagonal and triangular composition can add dynamic tension to the picture and make it look more lively. Relatively speaking, the horizontal line and the vertical line appear very stable. If a person stands on a horizontal surface, he looks very stable, but when it is placed on an inclined surface, it will give people a sense of tension. Such composition is more used in architecture and sports photography.

7. Pattern and texture

Humans are naturally attracted by patterns, which can be the shape of arches, the patterns on the floor, and the reliefs on the wall. Taking these as the visual subject of the picture, combined with light and shadow, can show a special texture.

8. Odd rule

The odd-number rule means that when the subject in the picture is odd, the picture is visually moving. For example, if you want to take pictures of more than one person, do not take two people, but take three, five or seven people. Of course, this is a stupid idea for wedding photography. But whenever possible, if you take more than a commemorative picture of real life, you should remember the odd number rule.

9. Fill the screen

Let the subject fill the picture, leaving little or no space around it. It helps the audience to pay full attention to the subject without any interference, and also allows people to clearly see the details of the subject.

As shown in the figure below, in the first picture, the lion’s face fills the whole picture, allowing the audience to clearly observe its eyes and hair details. In the second picture, Notre-Dame de Paris is almost filled with the whole picture, just to show the architectural details.

10. Use blank space

As mentioned above, you should fill the space, but this is the opposite. Leave some blank space in the picture, which can also make your theme obvious and attractive, and also create a minimalist picture.

11. Minimalism

It is often said that “less is more”. When shooting, the elements displayed in the picture should be as few as possible, sometimes presenting more impressive visual effects. Make good use of the negative space in the environment, so that the audience can quickly focus on the main body.

12. Separate the subject from the background

Using shallow depth of field to separate the subject from the background is also a good way to highlight the subject. By using a large aperture, the background is blurred and the clear subject becomes the focus of the picture at once. This technique is most commonly used in the shooting of portraits and life sketches.

13. Change your perspective

Now many cameras have flip screens, and SLR cameras are also equipped with easy-to-use real-time viewfinder function, which provides great convenience for us to take photos from unconventional angles. Don’t always create at the height of the human eye. Try to lower or raise your sight. Shoot things from different angles and you can get unexpected results.

14. Find specific color combinations

For designers, the combination of colors is very important, but it is easy to be ignored in photography. By combining some colors, you can be more eye-catching visually. As shown in the color wheel below, the two opposite colors are complementary colors. Placing these two colors in the same picture can make the picture more attractive.

As shown in the nightscape picture below, does the combination of blue night sky and yellow buildings immediately attract your attention?

15. Space principle

The principle of space is to leave a lot of space for moving objects in the image in their forward direction. For example, the boat in the picture below is going to the right, so you can leave blank space on the right side of the picture, so that the image is full of motion. If you leave a lot of blank space on the left side, it will give you a feeling that the boat is going to sail out of the field of vision, which may cause problems such as the theme is not prominent.

In the following photo, the singer who plays the guitar faces the right side, so leave it blank on the right side. We can naturally see the scenery on the bridge, the passers-by leaning against the railing, and the dancing couple along with his vision.

16. Left-to-right rule

The principle of left to right is like reading a book. We are used to seeing images from left to right. Therefore, if the characters in the image are moving, the principle from left to right will make people feel more natural and comfortable.

17. Keep the picture balanced

A common mistake that photography beginners often make is to pay too much attention to the subject and not pay attention to the background or foil. In fact, a good picture needs to be echoed by the intersection of the front and back scenes, giving people a sense of disorder. Proper setting aside the background can also make the subject more prominent. Moreover, photos with foreground and background will have more space.

18. Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is a very powerful way of composition. Juxtaposition refers to putting two or more things in the same picture, making them complement each other, making both play an important part in it, and telling a story with photos. This kind of composition is often used in humanities.

In the picture below, the well-arranged newspaper kiosks are side by side with the solemn church behind them, forming a sharp contrast, but they represent and tell Paris in different ways, telling us two different stories about the city.

19. Golden triangle composition

The composition of the golden triangle is very similar to that of the trisection method, except that the straight line here starts from the four corners of the picture and forms two right triangles on the left and right sides. Then construct the elements of the picture into these intersections.

The Golden Triangle principle in this picture is applied more subtly. The heads of the two statues form an invisible diagonal, which leads people’s vision to the Eiffel Tower. The left line coincides with the diagonal line at the center of gravity of the Eiffel Tower, while the right line coincides with the diagonal line at the middle of the two sculptures. These two coincidence points are not random points, but the golden section on the diagonal.

20. Golden ratio

The golden ratio was originally a mathematical law discovered by Leonardo Fibonacci around 1200 AD. He noticed that this proportion appeared in a large number in nature, and the natural structural design based on it was both practical and beautiful. Although the golden ratio is regarded as a criterion in the field of painting and design, there is not much discussion about it in the photography circle, because it is a high-level composition method, and many people do not understand it. But in fact, the golden ratio is not complicated. It is very similar to the composition of the trisection method, but its picture ratio is not 1:1:1, but 1:0.618:1.