How to improve your image compositions (a beginner's guide)

First published:
September 29, 2020
February 6, 2024

How to improve your image compositions (a beginner's guide)

First published:
September 29, 2020
February 6, 2024

Cover image from Arhamnly

5 simple composition techniques you can apply that, with a little practice, won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed and will improve your confidence with the camera

Composition, where the subject appears in the photograph, is a key element of photography. And learning how to frame a subject with the camera can give you excellent results each time, even if the subject matter appears superficial or dull.

1 Start off with the landscape/ horizontal position

One of the most common starting points for people taking a photograph is to hold the camera in the upright or portrait position. Portrait can be quite a difficult technique to perfect, often taking years of experience to get the desired results. A much easier default is to begin your shot holding the camera in the horizontal/landscape position.

Some beautiful horizontal compositions from photographers on Picfair...
See the full board of images here

2 Try to avoid 'the middle'

Often the first reflex with taking a photograph is to position the subject dead centre in the middle of the viewfinder. Instead, move the camera slightly to either side with your subject off-centre and allow a fuller scene to reveal itself. This allows more elements to come into play in your photography.

Montage of images where the subject is not placed in the middle of the frame
These photographers on Picfair have nailed it when it comes to avoiding the middle of the frame. See these images and more examples here

3 Follow and create 'lines'

When shooting outdoors, lines are an excellent tool for guiding the eye within the frame and maintaining the focal point. Lines exist everywhere. These can include walls, roads, telegraph wires, plough lines, kerbs and fences. Positioning a subject to converge to the end of a line or adjacent to a line can give your image an interesting effect without leaving the viewer disorientated.

Read on:

Learn more about leading lines with our guide to the 7 Formal Elements of Photography.

Montage of images that featured lines in their compositionso
These images perfectly demonstrate the power of lines in composition.
See these images and more stunning examples here

4 Reduce camera shake

The camera is sensitive to your movement and even small reactions may affect the final result of your image. Try and position yourself as still and comfortably as possible, including your breathing. Many professionals hold their breath when taking a perfect shot! A simple technique is to lean your body (discreetly if possible) against a solid object such as a wall or static object.

Photographer taking a picture from the viewing deck of the Tate Modern, Londonm
Lean against a solid object, such as a wall or railing, to steady yourself when you take your shot. Image by Tom Eversley

5 Don't be afraid to experiment

You fail with 100% of the photographs you don’t take. Photography is fun, experimental imagery can be interpreted in a thousand different ways. Don’t be afraid to take pictures that you didn’t think would make a good photograph at the time, these can often produce amazing results!

Get inspired to experiment with our guide on why you should also Break the Rules of Composition.

A montage of images featuring unique compositions
Just a few of the experimental compositions we love from Picfair photographers!
See these images and more of our favorites here
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