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  • April 18, 2021
  • 29 min to read

35 Photography Composition Rules

35 Photography Composition Rules

Being able to take your landscape photography to new levels doesn’t require fancy or expensive gear. Instead, all you need to do is learn about the art of composition.

Composition, perhaps more than anything else, is an essential feature in photography. Once you understand it and can efficiently use photography compositional techniques, your photography will keep getting better.

1. Find the Perfect Light

Excellent lighting makes good landscape photography great. Take advantage of it, depending on the situation. For example, utilize the dramatic light after a storm or lightning strike or the wonderful glow during the golden hour. You’ll be amazed what a difference great lighting can make.

2. Well-Balance

Make sure all the elements of a composition work well together. In doing so, your photograph can become visually balance. Avoid overpowering elements.

3. Know the Rule of Thirds

The so-called rule of thirds is an often-used guideline, not just in photography, but also in paintings, designs, and films.  The instruction suggests that an image is divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two evenly spaced vertical lines.  

As such, the rule suggests the best place to put the subject of an image isn’t in the center, but slightly off to the side. The result is natural looking and well-balanced photos.

4. Keep The Interest

In landscape photography, it’s important to grab someone’s attention by making sure supporting elements draw the focus back towards to the main subject. One way to do this is by using contrasting which can create visual tensions.

5. Respect the Negative Space

Images that make use of negative space are often more dramatic. By definition, negative space is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image.

6. Where are the Lines?

Incorporating lines into your photos is a great way to bring attention to the focal point. Roads, rivers, and railroad tracks are three examples of real-world lines.

7. After Lines, Look for Geometry

Lines aren’t the only way to bring attention to the focal point. Also include patterns and shapes, which are great ways to give structure to your images. Take advantage of these to highlight the three-dimensional quality of your subjects.

8. Remember the Foreground

Setting the scene in an image and introducing its content is best provided using its foreground. By utilizing foreground elements, you can better grab a viewer’s attention and draw them into the image. Think depth.

9. Frames Work Too

Including natural frames inside your images is an excellent way to create something stunning. Frame examples include overhanging tree branches, icicles, a doorway, and more.

10. When in Doubt, Simplify

Sometimes, less is more. With landscapes, make sure to remove everything that isn’t necessary, including distracting details that take away from the main subject.

11. Forget the Word “Perfect”

There’s no such thing as a perfect image. Instead, your goal with landscape photographs should be to create an image that is visually exciting and meaningful. Think powerful and distinctive, not busy and overly technical.

12. Watch the Horizon …

The horizon in your landscape image shouldn’t be in the center. Instead, bring the sky or land up or down to move the horizon off-center. By doing so, you’ll create a more exciting image.

13. … But Avoid Merging

Be sure the lines of a horizon don’t intersect with the main subject in your image. By doing so, you risk distracting the viewer. Instead, move the frame up or down, left or right to avoid what’s called the horizontal merge.

14. Life is Good

Some of the best landscapes are those that also feature living creatures, such as farm animals, pets, or the like. These living beings add dimension and scale to the viewer.

15. The Scale of the Scene

Let’s stress this again: Including a subject in the scene allows a viewer to relate the size of your composition. In doing so, your image pops and is much more interesting.

16. A Singular Sensation

Some of the best landscapes are those that feature a lonely subject, such as a tree, house, building, or car. Use them wisely and they'll stand out in your image.

17. Count to Three

You’re about to take the nearest thing to the perfect landscape image. Unfortunately, just before you click, an unexpected object appears and ruins everything. To increase your chances of avoiding these objects, take a deep breath, relax, and count to three. Then snap your image.

18. Lather and Repeat

Repeating objects are a great way to get your point across. Use it to create a unique frame. Think a row of trees, apartment building windows, or more.

19. Seriously, Focus

The main subject of your image, by definition, should be its focal point. Because of this, make sure to magnify and focus. In other words, emphasize your main subject.  

20. Natural Beauty

One of the easiest ways to add composition to a landscape is by adding nature. Think water, earth, and vegetation. By doing so, you can enhance your photo and make it more useful.

21. Sometimes, shot in Horizontal and Vertical

Take some time to determine whether to shoot your image horizontally or vertically. The former is a great way to enhance tall objects and emphasize height, while the latter helps you show off-width.

A good rule: Shoot in both and decide later in post-processing which view is best.

22. Yes, You Can Crop

Cropping is a great tool that should be used to correct mistakes and reframe your composition. Use it often.

23. Subtract Too

It’s also important to understand that sometimes less is more. If an object in a would-be image doesn’t invoke emotion or add to the story you’re trying to tell, remove it.

24. Odd One Out

If you have to have more than one subject in your image, be sure to have an odd number of items. Having three or five subjects (as opposed to two or four), for example, in a frame is typically a more pleasing experience.

25. Before Setting Up Your Tripod …

Placing your tripod gives you a sense of finality that you’ll want to avoid. Instead, make sure you survey various compositions between setting down your tripod.

26. Golden Triangle Rule

Another interesting and often-used composition rule is the golden triangle rule. Imagine lines going through your image so that there are three triangles - a large one and two smaller ones. Frame your shot, so the main subject only fills one of these triangles. In doing so, you’ll emphasize the subject adequately.

27. Break the Patterns

Repetition and patterns can be pleasing to the eye. When breaking those patterns, however, you can allow your viewer to gravitate towards the object of your image.

28. Remember the Color Theory

At its most basic level, the so-called color theory is a great way to find colors that complement each other. To get started, look at a color wheel and look at colors on the opposite sides of the wheel from each other.

For example, blue and orange, and purple and yellow. Find these colors side-by-side in the real world, and you can come up with some fantastic landscape images.

29. Sometimes, Forget the Color

In some instances, using monochrome is ideally suited for a landscape. In those cases, forget the color wheel and think only in black and white.

30. Interact With the Landscape

Adding people or objects to a landscape works even better when that person interacts with a scene. For example, a kid jumping into a water puddle or a dog walking on a road.

31. Make the Living Creature Small

Adding a living soul to a landscape image is a great way to break things up and add dimension and scale to the viewer. To maximize this, you may want to make that living creature very small in the image. By doing so, you make the subject of the image even more important looking.

32. Add Water Reflection

Adding water reflections is a great way to add perspective and symmetry to an image. Use this composition when you want to convey something dynamic.

33. Let There Be (Isolated) Light

Adding isolated light to an image is a great way to hold a viewer’s attention. Think of a headlight on a car or the last remnants of a fire on a cold night.

34. Remember the Stars

When you’re shooting images outside of a city at night, always look to the stars. They add a unique element to landscapes that never gets old.

35. Finally, Take Advantage of the Air

Aerial photography is always changing depending on the time of day and your location. Look for different shapes and forms in the air to capture unique images.

Photography Composition Tips

These are just some of the tricks and tips for landscape photography. To make your images even better, always use Photolemur during post-processing.

Photolemur works exceptionally well with landscapes, by automatically adding sky enhancements, color recovery, noise reduction, and so much more. By analyzing and adjusting various aspects of your photo, you can achieve the nearest thing to perfection.

Photolemur naturally knows just what to do for images that wow. From faces to objects, to the sky — it analyzes and adjusts different aspects of your photo to achieve the nearest thing to perfection.

What tips do you suggest for taking awesome landscapes?

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