creative composition photo check guide

Creative With Composition

Ultimately your entire image depends on your composition. The composition guides the viewer’s eye through your photo. The photography world has a “fixed” set of rules that are applied to build a strong image. However, it’s always good to get creative with your composition. After all, rules are meant to be broken.

Rule Of Thirds

Every image can be divided into a type of tic-tac-toe grid. The grid creates four points where its lines intersect. The rule of thirds makes use of these points to present your subject. A viewers eyes are more likely to find the points where the grid lines intersect, causing the viewers eyes to be guided to these points. You can use this knowledge to your advantage by placing your subject on one of these points.

rule of thirds tic-tac-toe grid, the base of a good composition
Photo by Niek Belder

Another way to use the rule of thirds would be to properly determine your horizon. The grid creates two horizontal lines you can use as reference to place your horizon. A horizon placed in the middle of a photo is less appealing than a horizon placed on one third of the photo. (Unless you make use of reflection or symmetry). The following tips regarding composition are all based on the rule of thirds.

Creative with Lines Of Sight

As you now know, composition is mainly about guiding your viewer through the photo. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use line of sight. Lines of sight are the lines a viewer can follow. These can be visible lines or invisible lines.

Visible Lines Of Sight

visible lines of sight guiding the viewers eye
Photo by Robert Lukeman

An easy example of visible lines of sight is a photo with a road in it. The road automatically functions as a viewing line, your eye follows it automatically to find out where it leads. You can use this very nicely to guide your viewer to your subject, and of course this is one of the four points in the grid. Aside from roads there are many subjects that can work as a visible line of sight in your photo.

Invisible Lines Of Sight

Invisible lines of sight are the lines you’re aware of but do not see. For example, two people looking at each other. When seeing these two people, your eye automatically moves from one to the other. The line of sight allows your viewer to be guided through the photo in a very natural way. People in your photo create the easiest and most natural lines of sight. Keep this in mind while taking your photo. Place your subjects on the points in the grid and play with the lines of sight they create for you.

Creative with invisible lines of sight
Photo by Niek Belder

Color/Lighting

Aside from the rule of thirds and the lines of sight, color and light are an important element in creating your composition. Because of the rule of thirds, we know where the eye of our viewer is automatically directed. We place our subject on these points to ensure the viewer sees it. The viewer’s eye is also automatically drawn to the lightest point in a photo, this can be the actual light but, can also be the brightest color in the photo. You can play with this to direct your viewer to the subject of the photo. A bright yellow raincoat immediately pops out on a rainy day causing your viewer to pause on this before discovering the rest of the photo.

creative with color / lighting to create a strong composition
Photo by Nicola Fioravanti

When you’re out shooting, always ask yourself, “” what do I want to show the viewer? “” And “” what will my viewer see? ”

Base your composition on these tips and let your photos tell the story. 
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