- September 15, 2017
- 23 min to read
30 Composition Techniques
Composition is the way that elements are arranged in a photograph. And when it comes to travel photography, using composition templates and techniques can help to turn a good photo — into a great photo without image quality enhancer.
Although there are no set rules when it comes to creative photo taking, there are certainly some well-known ideas gathered over the years that will help you snap scenes and people in an interesting and dynamic way.
So, when you’re out and about traveling, try using these tips for efficient and inspiring photo sessions.
1. The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is one of the most referenced photography techniques. Divide the frame into 9 equal rectangles (3 across and 3 down). Then, place the important elements of your scene along the places where the lines intersect. What this will help do is to break the habit of placing the subject solely in the middle of the frame — aiding in more visually interesting photos.
2. The Rule of Odds
The Rule of Odds suggests that a photograph is more visually appealing if it has an odd number of elements. Think: three people in a portrait shot, five apples in farmers’ market shot, seven pineapples lined up on the sand along the water.
3. The Rule of 10ths
This is similar to the Rule of Thirds — but takes things a step further. With this trick, you’re basically breaking your images up into 100 equal parts. The feeling of emptiness this conveys around your subject works to create a dramatic end result and emphasize size in unique ways.
4. Left to Right Motion
It’s often said that any motion in a photograph should move from left to right (because in essence, we read an image the same way we read text). So, if you’re snapping a shot of your dog running across a lake, try placing him in the left portion of your image. However, some rules are made to be broken — and having the dog in motion to the right side can prove to be just as interesting, too.
5. Dynamic Tension of Diagonals
Diagonals are said to add dynamic tension to photographs. But how? Because, as viewers, we aren’t used to diagonals in everyday life (rather, we’re used to seeing horizontal and vertical lines) — so, these diagonals come across as unstable in a photography and provide a level of tension. Look for bridges, fences, and triangle shapes to work the magic of this technique.
6. Leading Lines
Utilizing leading lines is a popular technique in the world of photography and will help to pull your viewer into your image. Look for roads, tiles, paths, stones and let those lines and paths lead towards your subject.
7. The Guillotine
This idea is simple and effective: remove your subject’s head from the photo so the viewer can focus on other aspects (like their hands).
8. The Frame Within a Frame
The frame within a frame trick is a fun and creative way to capture cool-looking shots. Look for something — such as a branch, window or arch — to frame your scene and convey depth.
9. Filling the Frame
This technique suggests filling the entire frame with your subject, so as to draw the full attention of the viewer into that scene without any room for distraction.
10. Isolating Your Subject
Isolating your subject by using a wide aperture and creating a shallow depth of field is another simple technique to use — in doing so, you’ll blur the background and simplify your composition.
11. Balancing Elements
Sometimes, you may find that you have more than one element in a photo that’s worthy of capturing. Perhaps you’re focused on a vibrant orange rose in front, but you still want to bring in the yellow-hued daisy behind it. Compose your shot by including that secondary subject on the opposite side of the frame to balance the elements of the photo, while still keeping the main subject as your focal point.
12. Middle Placement
Though doing this in every situation can feel boring, placing your subject in the middle can also create a well-balanced end result and convey a feeling of peacefulness in your images (particularly, when your background is symmetrical).
13. The Golden Ratio
The golden ration is a seemingly complex mathematical ratio (similar, actually, to the Rule of Thirds). It divides your frame into a series of squares — within those squares, a spiral known as the ‘Fibonacci Spiral’ is drawn, which provides an idea as to how the scene should flow.
14. Leaving Negative Space
To create a look of simplicity in your image, leave negative space around your subject. Like many of the other techniques, this sort of minimalism in your photograph will help the viewer to focus solely on the subject.
15. Golden Triangles and Spirals
For this compositional technique, divide your image diagonally from corner to corner. Next, draw a line from one of the other corners until it meets that first line (at a 90 degree angle). Set your photograph’s elements so that they fall within the triangles and you’re good to go!
Angles work wonders when it comes to composition. In portraits, for example, a person can look radically different if you shoot them from below, versus above, or straight on.
Integrating layers into your photo-taking (like a mug of coffee, followed by your subject holding it, followed by the orange striped couch in the coffee shop behind them both) adds creativity to your composition.
Experimenting with symmetrical objects in your images (whether through people, buildings, or plates of food) adds balance and a pleasing, calming composition.
As humans, we’re drawn to patterns, as they’re easy on the eye. Think of arches, repetitive stones, multiple tree canopies — the possibilities for patterns around us are endless and fun to capture.
Shapes exist all around us — both naturally and manmade. Look for things like water that’s formed itself into a heart, or three blades of grass coming together to create a triangle.
Minimalism is a powerful aspect of photography to explore. Think of zooming in on a scene of your travels. Maybe, instead of focusing on a palm tree, a coconut and the waves behind, you’re getting up close with just the texture of the coconut.
Juxtaposition works its magic in all art forms. In photography, using juxtaposition can be seen in a variety of ways. Perhaps, you’re snapping an image of a person holding a sign asking for food, with a giant corporate supermarket behind them. What does this juxtaposition serve so far as telling your photo story?
Always be on the hunt for textures during your travels. Think about capturing the coarse texture of a rock on your hike, or the smooth appearance of fresh peaches at your hotel’s breakfast buffet.
23. Point of View
When many photographers are just getting started, they shoot from eye level. An easy trick to start shooting more interesting photos right away is to consider your point of view. Get low. Go high. And see how you can capture your subject in unique ways.
24. Color Combinations
Colors that make their way into your photo scenes can be vibrant, dull, subdued, neon — and when you notice how these certain color combine, you can work to create some seriously beautiful images. (There’s a reason why interior and fashion designers study color theory, after all.)
Photographers have to be constantly aware of their photo’s background and how that relates to the composition of their image. A person holding a basketball with the background of a soccer field, for example, will create a much different image than a person holding that same ball with the background of a basketball court.
To experiment with the power of cropping, try taking one image and cropping it in three different ways. Get up close on one crop. Crop to the left on another. And to the right. How do these different crops change the feel of your photo?
To make more intriguing composition, work to create triangles within your images. What triangles do is divide your frame and guide the eye (think of a child on the floor, cradling his chin in his hands or person standing with their hands on their hips rather than at their sides).
To add depth to your images, try working with the foreground. Get close to the tide coming in and place it in the foreground of your shot (with the surfer and the waves in the background).
29. The Rule of No Rules
This one is a rule made for you especially from the Photolemur team — remember that often, the best rule to follow is no rule at all. Trust yourself. Get creative and have fun.
Photography is an art — your art. And the best technique of all is experimentation. After all, you’re the one with the eye for the scene and only you can tell the story of your travels in a way that is uniquely your own.
From all of us at Photolemur, we wish you endless luck and inspiration on your compositional travel photo journey ahead!
As always, feel free to reach out with questions or ideas. We’d love to hear from you!