Whether you’re photographer or artist, these eight tips will help you develop an eye for beautiful compositions. Even if you’re a professional artist or photographer with over ten years of experience, everyone could use a refresher and be inspired to constantly push yourself. As artists, there is always something new to learn. After all, you’ve got to learn the rules before you can break them! By the end of reading these eight composition rules, you’ll begin to notice many of the examples actually utilize multiple rules.
1. Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a great way to create an eye catching photography composition. It teaches us to split a composition into 9 nine equally divided parts, or two equally spaced horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Your main focal point is then to sit within those lines splitting your composition to create an aesthetically pleasing subject.
2. Harmony using Symmetry
Now that you know the rule of thirds, it’s time to forget that composition theory. While the rule of thirds is a great rule to create an interesting composition, you can also use symmetry or asymmetry as a way to create a harmonious composition. Keep your focal point directly in the center, but for the idea of symmetry to work it must feel very intentional and have enough detail to hold the viewers eye. We as humans crave balance and order, and symmetry or asymmetry does just that.
3. Use lines, colors, shapes & values to guide the viewers eye
Some may argue that the use of lines, colors and shapes as a way to lead the viewer’s eye through the composition is one of the most important elements when it comes to composition rules. There are many ways to do this and this concept applies to all genres of photography and art. It not only can help reinforce an idea your work represents but it can direct the viewer’s eye to a specific element you of your composition you would like to focus on.
4. Detail in the foreground to show depth
Cameras can of often be so powerful that it might show to much sharpness and detail which can then make your composition almost look unnatural or busy. A great composition tip is to show more sharpness or detail within the foreground or main focal point as a way to create depth or an atmospheric quality. By using soft, hazy transitions between tones, it creates a sense of sfumato (which is a word coined by Da Vinci, meaning “to evaporate like smoke, showing gradations between light and shadow).
5. Use of Negative space
Negative space is an important composition rule used both in the world of photography and art. It can help give your subject importance and almost make it feel like the background is receding, which will naturally cause your eye to gravitate towards the positive space, aka the subject of your composition. Negative space is also a great way to prevent your image from feeling busy or chaotic and emits a sense of tranquility or calmness for the viewer.
6. Using Movement
Using movement is a unique and truly captivating technique to lead the viewer’s eye through the subject, or to a certain focal point within your composition. It often creates a naturally wondrous composition and evokes a sense of thrill and excitement. Movement can be implied or actual photographic captures of elements in motion. The concept of movement is often combined with multiple composition theories to create an eye catching design.
7. Use of Scale
The use of scale is often used in compositions to give the viewer a sense of wonderment and marvel. Especially when it comes to landscape photography, it can naturally help put the viewer in that person’s shoes and imagine what it would be like if they were there, along with giving a sense of proportion.
8. Cyclical Direction
Last but not least, always be thinking about how the viewers eye is traveling through your composition. Sometimes, your eye may travel down a line, whether it is a line of trees, the way a body is posed, the edge of a building. It's important that your eye travels through the composition and does not come to an abrupt stop or meet two lines and not know where to go next. Guide the viewer’s eye within a continuous circle through the composition, creating an endless cycle.
Now that you've been officially inspired and learned the 8 composition rules to build enhance your photography or art, it's time to get to creating!