Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

6 classic composition techniques every photographer should know

From Digital Camera World six of the best. We teach these and more in our Composition course

01. Rule of thirds

Yes, it’s an old chestnut, and yes, all rules are there to be broken, but just as Eric Clapton had to learn his chords and scales before he could improvise, you have to have a sense of compositional conventions before you can start to creatively break them. The idea behind the rule of thirds is simple.

Mentally divide the scene in front of you into thirds, or activate a handy grid on your viewfinder. Then place your subject near the intersecting lines of one of these thirds, and you should get a nicer composition than if the subject was placed dead centre.

If all this sounds too mathematical, just keep your subject more towards the edge of the frame rather than plonked in the middle. Used well, the rule of thirds can really enhance an image, but try not to make it a religion, or all your shots will look the same.

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02. Leading lines

Leading lines is another classic composition technique, particularly in landscape photography. Basically, you make use of lines or other shapes to lead in the eye. You could use a road or path, or even shadows on a landscape.

A classic example of leading lines would be allowing a desert highway to create a sense of depth and distance, rather than just taking a flat shot of the desert and the sky.

A winding path going up a hill or cliff is another classic application. The idea is that you are drawing the viewer into the scene. Be careful, though, that the leading line doesn’t act as a distraction – it’s all very well using a road but watch out for vans parked on it, or litter bins!

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do you know the other 4? go here to see

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