New Year's Resolutions to Be Better with Photography Composition

January 02, 2019 4 min read

Photography Composition Tips, Basics, and Examples – MOVO Photo - Movo

2019 is here! And with it comes a long list of New Year’s resolutions. In 2019, let’s all go to the gym every day, eat healthy, quit smoking, read more books, learn a new language, manage your time better, cut down on screen time, start a new charity, and just be all around better people. Easy enough, right?

New Year’s resolutions sound great until about...January 3rd or so. Let’s face it: committing yourself to making such drastic changes in your life is hard. That’s why we’re going to do you a big favor and give you at least one New Year’s Resolution that will be a bit easier to keep up with. This year, we’re going to help you commit to at least one resolution, and that’s making you a better photographer. Here are our top five tips to improve your photography composition for 2019:

Rule of Thirds. We should start by saying that there are no true “rules” when it comes to photography. Having said that, this basic rule can definitely help improve the composition of your photographs. The rule of thirds simply states that the frame is divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The resulting lines that divide the frame are your points of interest. This is where you want your subjects to be, specifically at the four corners where the lines meet. You might think that putting the subject of your photo perfectly at the center of your shot would be ideal, but more often than not, having your subject off-center creates a more pleasing image.

Rule of Thirds

One basic way to apply the rule of thirds with any outdoor photography is to have the horizon along one of your horizontal lines. You’ll notice that it breaks a picture up nicely, as opposed to having it perfectly centered or too close to the top or bottom of your frame. Notice how in the image below, the person is standing off-centered, where the first vertical dividing line would be, and the horizon lines up with where the top dividing line would be.

Beach rule of thirds

Symmetry.Remember when we said there are no real rules? The rule of thirds was all about having things off-center, away from the middle of the frame. And now we present you with the idea of symmetry, which is the exact opposite.

Since none of these are real rules, there will be times where using the rule of thirds will work, and there will be times when using symmetry will look nicer. It’s something you’ll have to feel out as you go. A helpful tip: symmetry is often found when looking at anything man-made. One prime example of this is architecture, which provides many opportunities for stellar symmetrical photographs.


Rule of Odds. Another rule that’s not a real rule. The rule states that having an odd number of subjects in the frame is easier on the eyes than an even amount. This is because there is more balance between an odd number of subjects. For example, a photograph with two subjects creates tension because you are unsure which one to focus your attention on. Notice the three arches in the photo below.

Rule of odds

In the image below, there are three people riding bikes. You'll also notice it follows the rule of thirds, with the main subject in the foreground on the right vertical line, and also uses leading lines (which you'll read about in the next section!)

Rule of odds - beach

Leading lines. Leading lines are a great way to really draw someone into an image. These are any lines in the frame which give a sense of direction or a pathway, such as a road or a river. Leading lines do not have to be straight, though when they are, they often look nice when using symmetry as well. Still, curved leading lines can make for great photo composition as well.

Leading lines

There is a lot of room for creativity, too. You don’t need a road or any kind of pathway to use leading lines. You’ll find that if you pay attention, you’ll start finding them in places you might not have originally expected them to appear.

Leading lines - cars
Leading lines - statues

Framing. There are many ways to frame your shot. Choosing what gets included (and what gets left out) can have a huge impact on the way an image looks. Here are three simple tips to keep in mind when you’re framing your shot:

a. Fill the frame. Using this framing technique keeps the focus on the subject of your photograph, and cuts out any potential surrounding distractions. It also allows you to get a real close up shot, and the opportunity to really focus on some the specific details you might not see in a wider shot.

Fill the frame - cat

b. Negative space. This technique is kind of the opposite of filling the frame. However, it doesn’t just mean taking a wider shot. Specifically, it means using the negative, or empty, space around the subject. This can have the effect of drawing the viewer’s attention to the main subject of the image, by making it stand out from the emptiness around it. Negative space doesn’t necessarily have to be a solid white wall; other examples include the sky, the ocean, or any other background that is more subtle.

Negative space

c. Frame within a frame. Using elements such as arches, windows, or tree branches, you can add a second frame within the frame of your shot. This adds a layer of depth to your photos, and gives you another way to add creativity to your shots. Look at how the stairs add a diagonal frame around the beautiful beach sunset below.

Frame within a frame

We hope you found this helpful. This is just the starting point - there is a lot more information out there when it comes to photo composition. But we wanted to start you off easy, since we know that becoming a better photographer is only one of dozens of New Year’s resolutions that you have for 2019.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!