Composition tips

After studying photography at A-level for a number of years and afterwards carrying it on as a hobby, I have learnt a lot about how to compose the scene for a more pleasing effect. As someone who is still eager to learn more, I’m no master, but I’d like to share my thoughts and experience.

When I purchased my first DSLR camera, I would take photos of anything. I’d take it to school with me regardless if I had photography that day and just go out at lunch or break with my best friend, who also studied photography and just develop our photography skills. But even though we were using the camera all the time our skill in camera composition was still quite poor and the photos taken still lacked that sense of framing and technique.

When we studied the following elements:
- Foreground interest
- Leading lines
- Rule of thirds
- Frames within frames
- Negative and positive space
- Backgrounds

We noticed that our photos looked more pleasing to the eye, as we thought about how we could incorporate leading lines into the composition, to perhaps lead the viewers eyes to the main subject, or perhaps use the rule of thirds to place the main subject in a position that came natural to the viewer.

Foreground interest

This is an example of foreground interest. Whereby I have composed the frame to include the large mass of the wall on right hand side, which is this closest element to the lens of the camera and thus, making it in the foreground. Why this is effective and widely used as a photography technique is because when the viewer glances at the image they will naturally make contact with the foreground and as this gradually fades into the background it will allow viewers to follow their eyes into the scene, picking up various pieces of information and details until they are completely whirled in.

Leading Lines

In this image I have used leading lines of the railing to draw the viewers attention towards the man walking on the left hand side of the frame. If I had composed the frame from a different position, not using the railing as a line, then the positioning of the man might not be as meaningful. As the use of the leading lines here suggest that the man is on a long walk and with the large amount of space ahead of him, it indicates he has a long way to go, prompting the question that he may be in deep contemplation.

Rule of thirds

This photograph demonstrates the use of the rule of thirds. The Rule of thirds is a grid often associated with photography and film, where it splits the frame into 9 different sections. However, the parts people try to converge with are the 4 corners of the middle box. These known as the intersection points, and each one is located to either the middle left or the middle right. As you can see in this photograph I have composed the frame so that the model (the subject) is located along the middle right intersection points. You may be thinking, what makes these points so special? Well they are special because our human eyes naturally look at things in this manner, so when we looking at things that are placed or composed in this natural manner it is easily perceived by our eyes. Therefore, when photographing or filming from now on, if you don’t already consider the rule of thirds, consider it and see how you get on.

Frames within frames

Frames within frames is an interesting technique because it takes the frame of the photographs dimensions as the master frames and then allows you to be creative in composing another one, which you can then place the subject inside. This is really effective for closing off the edges of the scene to compel viewers to see what’s inside the frame. In this example I have used the tree and its long horizontal branch to create a frame. As such, we as a viewer are forced to look through this branch, which then leads us to the bench in the middle. This is a really effective technique for directing viewers to the main subject.

Negative and positive space

Negative and positive space is another intriguing one because it uses the concept of emptiness to enforce engagement with the positive. For instance, in this example dark empty negative space doesn’t bring anything by itself, and therefore, naturally will induce viewers to look where the space is filled. In this case I have filled it with the subject. Making them the most stand out and prominent figure in the scene. So this is a useful technique to create meaning.


In this photo I have used the background to separate the subject from their surroundings. I have done this by using a very wide aperture on my camera, which allowed for a very shallow depth of field. In effect it has completely blurred the background creating quite an interesting abstract feel, but it is also successful in bringing out the presence of the main subject.

There you have it, all my tips on how to make your photos more pleasing.