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5 minute read

The Basics of Composition

When it comes to making great pictures, there are a few simple rules you can follow to improve the quality of your images instantly

When looking at an image made by your favorite photographer, what do you see? What makes it a great photo? Of course, the subject might be particularly eye-catching, but careful consideration has also gone into the framing of the image before the shutter was pressed.

You can improve the composition of your own photographs by following a few simple rules. As time goes on these will become second nature, and you’ll find yourself composing beautiful images instinctively. Let’s have a look at some of the things you can try.

1. The Rule of Thirds

One of the most basic rules of photography is the rule of thirds. When framing or composing your image, imagine a grid of nine equal sections over your viewfinder or LCD screen. To follow the rule of thirds, you need your main subject to be placed along one of the lines where your grid is split, or at a cross section where these lines cross.

In fact, you don’t have to imagine these thirds lines, as your camera can display them in its viewfinder or on its viewscreen. To turn these on, follow the below steps:

The rule of thirds is a simple and effective way to work, and is easy to spot in other photographers’ work, too. Have a look yourself, you’ll be surprised how often you see it. You can learn more about the rule of thirds, including how to get your camera to show you where the thirds lines are, by signing up to the free FUJIFILM Photo School.

Learn photography with Fujifilm

Photo © Richard Vogel

2. Framing

As well as following the rule of thirds, there are other things to consider when framing. First, make sure your camera is level so that you don’t end up with a sloping image; if you’re photographing landscapes, consider using a tripod to help. If you’re making pictures of people, it’s also important you don’t crop off any of their limbs. Although there are times when this can be done for creative effect, it will usually look quite strange!

3. Focusing

You don’t want a blurry image, so make sure your subject is in focus before creating the image. If you are using autofocus, press your shutter button halfway down: your camera will focus. Once it has focused, press the button down fully to make the photo. Alternatively, you can switch to manual focus, and focus by rotating the focus ring on your lens.

Photo © Bobbi Lane

One way you can use focusing to help with composition is by being selective. Focusing only on what is important in a picture, and letting other parts go out of focus, is a great way to draw your viewers’ attention to what matters.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Have you ever created an image and thought, ‘I wish that street light wasn’t there’ or ‘I wish there wasn’t so much in the background’? If so, then there’s a simple solution to your troubles – eliminate those distracting elements. When composing your image, take notice of what appears in the frame. If there is a sneaky branch creeping into the frame, or maybe even someone standing in the background of your image, then simply take a step to the side and try again. Or if you have a zoom lens, try zooming in until the object disappears. It’s also important to consider what is in the background of your image. Try to look for clutter-free backgrounds or settings for your images and don’t be afraid to move yourself or your subject to get that better picture.

5. Patterns, Symmetry, and Lines

If you stop and look at something and think it would make a great photo, then it most likely will. Our eyes are drawn to patterns, lines, and symmetrical objects, so including these elements in your images will make them visually strong and draw more people in.

Photo © Seth K Hughes