Use These 5 Elements to Compose Great Photographs

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Composing a great photograph can be done in so many different ways that it seems more logical to talk about “guides” to composition rather than “rules” of composition. We have covered several compositional elements of photography previously such as the photographer's rule of thirds and the s-curve, but let's move on to some other less stringent “rules” for composing a great shot. These elements of an image can create spectacular results if done well.

Pattern – Repetitious patterns or textures within an image can either draw or direct the viewer within a shot. In some cases it can be what makes the shot. Patterns can often be found in nature (clouds, sand, waves) and sometimes architecture and other human-made elements (farms, gardens etc).

Done for the Season
Photo by Andrew Morrell

Moments of Silence
Photo by Garry at

Symmetry – Shots that use symmetry can often be very boring, but if you can incorporate other elements of composition such as shadow, pattern or colour then they can also be quite eye-catching. When using symmetry, look for these other elements also to add extra interest to the shot

Week #10: Patterns
Photo by Kicki

DOF – Using depth of field well is one of the best weapons a photographer has in their arsenal. Consider which elements within a potential shot should be in and out of focus. Traditionally, landscape shots have a deep depth of field so that most of the shot is in focus. Close-ups are often rendered with a narrow depth of field to place the focus squarely on one subject.

Hummingbird Portrait 7
Photo by Danny Perez

Lake Ontario at 30sec

Photo by John A Ryan Photography

Colour – Most photographs that leap out of the page usually display at least some adherence to colour theory. Contrasting or complimentary colours have a dramatic impact on colour photographs and can sometimes even save an otherwise ordinary shot. Highlighting colour within a certain area of a photograph can also be used effectively as a compositional element.

reflections for the day
Photo by Seattle Miles

Movement – Capturing movement in a photograph through creative use of shutter speed can result in some of the most emotive images. Capturing the excitement of a motor race or the grace of a dance can be done this way.

Photo by Phil H

+ Day 47 + Reverse the historyPhoto by Bichxa

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of elements that can be used in creating an effective composition, these are certainly things that should be remembered when deciding on how to create an image. As with anything, a little thought can have a massive impact on your end result.


About the author

Rob Wood (Admin)

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking which is one of the most shared photography sites online. He is also co-founder of Photzy. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and mail as well.


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