5 Composition Rules for Every Photography Level

Today, I have a guest post from Courtney at Click It Up A Notch. I met Courtney on Clickin Moms (of course) and we bonded over blogging and social media. So many of you have asked for more thorough tutorials on how to take great pictures (no matter what kind of camera you have), and I struggled for a while thinking how I could write something like this without feeling like a giant poser. Also, I’m the world’s worst teacher. When things just “click” in my head, I have no idea how to explain to other people what I did to make that happen.

Courtney, however, is the complete opposite. I can get lost in her blog for hours! She really breaks each thing down, and today she’s starting with some of the most basic “rules” of photography. If you enjoy her post and want to soak up more of her knowledge, check out her blog and her Facebook page. 

Composition is something anyone at any level of photography and with any camera can learn and put into action.  You can use these rules with your fancy DSLR, point and shoot, or even your iPhone.  Take a few seconds before you snap your photo to make sure it is as interesting as possible.

 Rule of Thirds

This is probably the first composition rule that a photographer will learn.  It is common to want to put your subject in the dead center of your photo but that does not lead to an interesting image.  When using the rule of thirds you want to place your subject/focal point in one of the thirds of the image.  The human eye naturally wants to see something in one of the thirds of a frame.  When watching television tonight, take some time to check out the composition.  You will find that 9 times out of 10 the subject is in one of the thirds.  In the example below, you can see that the subject’s eye is in the upper right third of the image.

Keep the horizon straight

This is the quickest way to distract your viewer and lose them.  Some people think it is artistic but just like any rule, it is good to learn the rule before you decide to break it.  If your horizon is crooked it looks like your subject is falling out of the image.  I am guilty of taking a picture with a tilted horizon, however, it is a quick fix in post processing.  Just about any program, even the free ones like PicMonkey.com have the option to straighten your photo.

Take advantage of negative space

Oh, I love using negative space in an image.  There is something about leaving negative space that makes your image just a bit more interesting.  You really draw your viewer into your subject.  Set your subject on one side of the frame (right, left, top or bottom) and leave blank space on the other side.

Use Leading lines

Use the natural lines in an image to help guide the viewers eye into your subject.  Remember, we naturally read from left to right so when using leading lines you may find it most appealing for the lines to start on the left side and lead to your subject on the right side.

Fill the frame

If you have an interesting subject, don’t be afraid to fill the entire frame with your subject.  How to do that?  Get in close.

Watch out!

Take a minute before you take your photo to make sure nothing is cutting through your subject’s head.  You want to make sure a pole or tree isn’t growing out of their head as well as making sure the horizon isn’t cutting through their head as well.  As you can see below my poor friend has a gigantic tree growing out of her head.  Oops!

Now, be inspired, take your new photography knowledge and go capture some beautiful moments of real life! Thanks again to Courtney for the guest post!

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  1. I would love more blogs on simple photography tips and pointers! I am a first time mom and I alsways want to capture that perfect picture but can’t seem to…..I am also a perfectionist.

  2. You know what I need tips on? Getting my kids to stand still for two seconds so I can snap the picture without them already being somewhere totally different then I wanted. Great tips though!! Totally planning to give these try at my next photo shoot with my little models. 🙂

    • Yes, I completely agree about being able to get a kid’s (especially toddler’s) attention long enough to take a picture! And this is such a great post, very simple yet important tips!

      • My three year old does not stand still. I find that I click and click and click in hopes that one of them comes out. I get some cute twirly girl pictures but a lot of blurry ones too.

        • Toddlers are a challenge for sure :O) I have a 3 year old so I know how that goes. I would suggest just letting them play in their element and get them used to the camera being out. Take pictures of them without asking them to look. Then once they don’t run away from the camera let them play, get yourself ready, call their name like you have something fantastic to tell them and when they turn to look “click”! Also, I have found that if I’m trying to get a certain shot, I will ask them if they see butterflies or dinosaurs inside my camera. They will then look into your lens looking for those things. Be patient and give them a break if they aren’t in the mood. Toddlers are tough!

  3. Thanks for the tips! I have an ancient (okay, it’s about 6 years old) point ‘n shoot that I know can take good pictures! I feel so enlightened!

  4. Her blog is one of my favorites 🙂 I’ve learned a lot from it. Like it was said before, my 4 year old always has his back to me…lol. I have lots of back shots and some profiles. The profiles are ok, but I’d like to see his face once in a while…lol.

    Thanks for the great tips!

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