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Composition & Framing in Photography

Here are a few different styles of composition and framing in Photography including a few tips on how to break away from the norm, and create styles of your own!

Composing your photographs is very important, and can be the only thing to separate a good photo from a mediocre one. If you’re looking for ways to frame and compose your photo to make them really stand out, be sure to read through this entire guide as each technique can be easily forgotten.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is an old rule that applies to more art forms than just photography, but it has become a very common practice in the field — and in my experience has often worked for the better.

How it works is that the image can be split into 9 equally sized parts, divided by two vertical and two horizontal lines. The four lines create four intersections, which should serve as the main points of interest.

As you can see here I’ve mostly used the horizontal lines to divide this photograph into three different parts, the top one being the sky and skyline, the middle one is the ocean and and bottom third is filled with the foreground (which might be a bit harder to see on this smaller size). The left side is mostly empty space in all three sections — both when it comes to the stones in the water and the lights at the horizon.

Framing

Look for natural frames in the scenery you have, it can be anything at all; having some frames can do wonders for a photograph.

Try to never cut off a small part of an object, such as a person’s hand or the ear or tail of an animal. If you leave an entire arm outside the frame it usually doesn’t look odd, but if there’s something small like a hand missing the viewer will notice it in a different way — and it can be very distracting at times.

Lines and Shapes

Lines and shapes are everywhere; try to use them to your advantage. They can draw the viewer into the picture or they can guide the eyes to a point that you normally wouldn’t pay so much attention to. Both symmetrical and asymmetrical lines and shapes are a great asset.

Simplicity

Less is more! Focus on the small things instead of the entire scene — this obviously won’t work for every scene you’re shooting but as a quick rule it’s often good to keep your compositions clutter free and with less distractions. Use your best judgment!

If you ask me, the photograph on the left is nothing special at all while I personally really like the one on the right. The “only” difference here is that I isolated the object in the second photo, this helps the few things stands out more. Metal, stone, wood and water — simple and clean.

Empty space

Negative space should not be underestimated, it can be a great way to simplify your image and draw attention to a certain point in the photograph. Don’t be afraid to use empty spaces in your photographs. Empty spaces usually work very well in portraits as, just keep in mind that it’s often preferred that the model either looks towards you or into the space so to speak.

A common rule says that there should always be more space in front of a moving object than behind it. If there’s not enough space in front of the object we often get the mental picture that it’s going to crash.

Eye level

Try to photograph on the same height as your object, be it a child, a pet or a small bird. Instead of photographing the child from your viewpoint some 6 feet above ground try to get down on their level and get eye contact, this creates a totally different feeling as you become a part of their world. If you get down on their level they usually respond to you in a different way and this will often give you photographs that would not be possible for another angle.

Breaking the rules

Don’t be afraid to break these rules — always following the “rules” will result in uniform, and sometimes mundane photos — but it’s important that you understand the rules before you break them. Nothing new can come if we all do the same thing. Sure, these rules and tips have a reason for existing, they are often the recommended way of doing things because they are tested and have shown that they work in most situations, but that doesn’t mean you should always follow them.

24 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point

    Mr.Fredrik this is use full information

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    i have a picture that i snapped recently.. somewhere in malaysia, and i posted it in facebook, there a one guy who about to be my mentor, he keep complaining my framing, and stuff like that. when i rad you blog, it’s just make me confused.. an you review my photo??

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    الأندرويد (1 Point) September 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    sure you are very pro for such that way of your articles

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    Farnoosh ~ Prolific Living (1 Point) August 11, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Fantastic rules. I still don’t get the Empty Space rule but I am thinking about it…..I guess in the example you have, you have more “empty space” – the black emptiness – in front closer to the viewer than in the back…..

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    Career Outlook (2 Points) August 6, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I have a great interest in photography and this useful post is really going to help me to click better pictures.

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    jennifer (1 Point) April 23, 2010 at 9:19 am

    these are very good pics they have life!!!!!

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    I liked your tips. I am not a learned photography enthusiast but click pictures by heart. Some of the things that you mentioned, I am using already & enjoy taking pictures with my point & shoot Digital & Pentax K1000 (Yes Film in 2010). I would keep learning from your tips.

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    โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) February 3, 2010 at 4:02 am

    its very nice. Great post36

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    โหลดเพลงmp3ฟรี (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    its very nice. Great post23

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    ฟังเพลงใหม่ (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 12:06 am

    its very nice. Great post17

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    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

    its very nice. Great post

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  12. Add point Subtract point

    It is awesome. I’m starting to get deep into photography.. Such an amazing feeling. Thank you a lot!

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    Sathish (1 Point) August 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Nice article. Thanks a lot.

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    nikitta may (0 Points) November 5, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    hello , your site looks dandy!! lovely work xxoxo

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    Yeah, some good tips here. About the rule of thirds, many cameras will be able to display the lines for you in the live view.

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    kRiZ cPEc (1 Point) May 31, 2008 at 6:43 am

    thnaks. great article.

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    I always try to work with the rule of thirds, or at least keep it in mind when I’m balancing out a capture. After learning about that technique, I’d say my photography improved by leaps and bounds overnight.

    I still have a long ways to go, but your lessons are really helping me out Fredrik! Thanks again!

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    great stuff. will try it out with my new nikon d40x :)

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    Photo Retouch Tutorials (1 Point) May 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Yo have some pretty good examples there, thanks for the article :)

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