Composition is one of the most important things to master in photography. Good composition will get your photos noticed and hold the viewer’s attention for longer.
Composition is simply the way you arrange the key elements or subjects within the frame. Before taking a photo, you should take a few moments to think about how best to compose your shot in order to draw attention to the main subject.
In this tutorial you’ll discover 7 of the most important composition guidelines to help make your iPhone photos stand out.
1. Include A Focal Point
Without a main subject or point of interest, your photo is likely to be boring and meaningless. Including a focal point gives your photo meaning and provides a place for the viewer’s eye to rest.
Before taking a photo, ask yourself “What am I taking a photo of?” or “What is my main subject?” If there is nothing of interest in the scene, it’s probably not worth taking the photo. Instead you should seek out an interesting subject to include in the scene, such a person, building, tree, etc.
Even though this photo contains a dramatic landscape, it wouldn’t have much impact if I didn’t include the person. Including the person as a focal point gives the photo meaning and evokes emotion in the viewer. It also provides a place for their eye to rest once they’ve looked around the image.
2. Keep It Simple
The best compositions are usually simple. By keeping your scene clean, without any distracting elements, you can make the most of your main subject.
When taking photos, always ask yourself how you can draw attention to your main subject or focal point. One easy way of achieving this is to ensure the background is clean and simple so that the subject stands out well.
Often, a simple change in viewpoint will enable you to change the background of the scene. Try taking a few steps to the left or right, or shoot from low down or high up to eliminate distractions.
3. Shoot From A Low Angle
Rather than taking photos from the height of a standing adult, try shooting from a lower angle. Shooting from a low angle is a really great way of simplifying the composition and eliminating distracting backgrounds as it enables you to include more plain sky behind the subject.
Shooting from a low angle also makes your photo more unique and interesting as it allows you to capture your subject from a viewpoint that most people don’t usually see.
4. Include Foreground Interest
Including objects in the foreground of your photos is a great way of adding interest to your images. It’s also a good way of creating a sense of depth or distance. This is especially important in landscape photography where the scene can appear quite flat in the photo.
By including foreground objects, you’re helping to lead the viewer’s eye from the front to the back of the image. When shooting landscapes, look out for rocks, flowers, people, etc. that you can include in the foreground of your photo.
Shooting from a low angle will make it easier to include these objects and allow them to be more prominent in the frame.
5. Use Leading Lines
Including lines in your composition is one of the most powerful ways to lead the viewer’s eye into the image. Rivers, roads, paths, railway tracks and bridges are commonly used as leading lines in photography.
Not only do these lines create a strong visual impact, but they help lead the eye from the foreground into the distance. This gives your image more depth and tends to hold the viewer’s attention for longer as they follow the line into and around the scene.
Ideally leading lines should lead towards the main subject. They usually work best if they run diagonally from the corners of the image, rather than vertically or horizontally.
Lines can be straight, parallel, converging, curved or S-shaped. Always keep your eye out for leading lines that will help make your composition more powerful.
6. Follow The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds states that an image will look more balanced and visually pleasing if the important elements within the scene are positioned off-center.
Many beginner photographers make the mistake of always placing their main subject in the middle of the photo, it often works better if you position them closer to one edge of the frame.
If you switch the gridlines on in your iPhone’s camera settings you will see two horizontal and two vertical lines on the screen. The rule of thirds suggests that the most powerful areas of the image are the four points where the lines intersect, and that our eyes are naturally drawn to these areas first.
Positioning your main subject on one of these intersections gives the most emphasis to your subject. In the photo above, the people are positioned approximately where the intersection of two lines would be, and the horizon is positioned along the top line rather than across the centre of the photo.
Of course, this “rule” is really just a guideline, and rules are made to be broken! So once you’ve mastered the rule of thirds, feel free to experiment and break the rule.
7. Give Your Subject Space To Move Or Look Into
If you’re taking photos of people who are moving or looking to one side of the frame, it’s usually best to leave more space in front of them than behind them. This gives a sense that they have space to move or look into, creating a more harmonious and natural composition.
If you positioned a moving subject with less space in front of them, it would appear as if they were about to move out of the frame. It’s much better to leave space for the viewer’s eye to follow their movement through the photo.
Likewise, it’s better to allow the viewer to follow the gaze of your subject rather than having the subject looking directly out of the frame.
You can use the rule of thirds to help you position your subject nearer one side of the frame. And of course, once you’ve mastered this technique, feel free to experiment with breaking the rule!
Emil Pakarklis is the founder of iPhonePhotographySchool.com, a website about taking better photos with iPhone. If you want to improve your iPhone photos, visit iPhoneography 101, which is a resource Emil created for everyone who wants to start taking better photos with iPhone.