Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

From Digital Camera World This is a good tutorial and echoes some of what we teach on our Composition Course – Seeing Pictures which starts on Thursday 9th, there are still places if you are interested. What our course does which this tutorial doesn’t do, and the clue is in the title of our course, is that we relate the basics of composition to the work of the truly great photographers. We introduce you to the work of some of the most outstanding photographers of the last 100 years. Learning to see is as important as seeing through the viewfinder. If you do not live near Oxford this on line tutorial will have to do for you though

In photography, it’s not just what you shoot that counts – the way that you shoot it is crucial, too. Poor photo composition can make a fantastic subject dull, but a well-set scene can create a wonderful image from the most ordinary of situations. With that in mind, we’ve picked our top 10 photo composition ‘rules’ to show you how to transform your images, as well as offered some of our best photography tips from the experts who do it on a daily basis…….

Don’t feel that you’ve got to remember every one of these laws and apply them to each photo you take. Instead, spend a little time practising each one in turn and they’ll become second nature. You’ll soon learn to spot situations where the different rules can be applied to best effect.

Photo composition doesn’t have to be complicated. There are all sorts of theories about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ and more complex ‘Golden Mean’, for example. But if you pay too much attention to strict formulae, your photos will lose any kind of spontaneity.

In the real world, you’ll be working with a wide range of subjects and scenes, and this requires a more open-minded approach. What works for one photo won’t necessarily work for another.

The key thing is to understand how all the decisions you make about composition can affect the way a shot looks and how people perceive your photos. The way you frame a shot, choose a focal length or position a person can make all the difference (check out our Photography Cheat Sheet series for quick fixes to some of these problems).

Technical know-how is very important in photography, of course, and even in some aspects of photo composition. But to take great shots you need visual knowledge too. Here are 10 key things to look out for…

Here is a taste of the article

Photo Composition Tip 6: Use diagonals

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

Horizontal lines lend a static, calm feel to a picture, while vertical ones often suggest permanence and stability. To introduce a feeling of drama, movement or uncertainty, look for diagonal lines instead.

You can need nothing more than a shift in position or focal length to get them – wider angles of view tend to introduce diagonal lines because of the increased perspective; with wide-angle lenses you’re more likely to tilt the camera up or down to get more of a scene in.

You can also introduce diagonal lines artificially, using the ‘Dutch Tilt’ technique. You simply tilt the camera as you take the shot. This can be very effective, though it doesn’t suit every shot and is best used sparingly (see our 44 essential digital camera tips and tricks).

Why it works…

10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)

see the whole 10 tips here

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