May 20, 2015 - by Robert Rhead


Simple is beautiful, simple is easily understood. Keeping your compositions clutter free will make it easy for the viewers eye to quickly understand the story you?re telling with the image. Identify the essential elements in the scene and compose to avoid everything that doesn?t add depth, interest or narrative.

Avoid the middle

The main focal element composed centrally within the frame adds little visual tension, allowing the viewers eye to wander and lose interest quickly. One of the easiest ways to avoid centrally aligning the main element is to use the Rule of Thirds. Splitting the frame into vertical and horizontal thirds and placing main elements on those lines or the intersections between the vertical and horizontals will instantly improve the strength of the composition.

Placing the Horizon

Composing scenes with fairly flat horizon lines and placing them on the centre of the frame almost falls into the Avoid the Middle section but requires additional emphasis. Horizons on or very near the middle of the frame will cut the composition cleanly in half, reducing the overall visual energy of the image. Shift your camera up or down and either include more of the sky or more foreground detail by placing the horizon on the upper or lower horizontal third.

Foreground detail

Get down low and include some foreground detail to add depth and activity to the image. Texture and interesting objects in the foreground can make the image and gives an initial starting point for the eye within the composition. Be careful not to overpower the image with too much foreground interest and too little in the more distant areas.

Leading Lines

Tell a story and lead the viewers eye through the scene all the way to a strong focal point. Using strong lines such as roads, paths or fences to take the eye on a journey will build strong compositions. You can however use softer and more subtle leading lines such as shore lines, colour transitions and shadows to great effect.


Taking care to leave space between important elements will ensure they remain dominant in the composition. Overlapping elements will detract from their visual strength and add complexity and confusion to the scene.


At it?s essence, photography takes a three dimensional image and reproduces it in two dimensional format. Depth is the dimension that loses out and using elements to recreate a three dimensional illusion can strikingly expand the visual interest of an image.


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