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Photography as well design is considered an applied art that represents the creative and unique vision of the author. However, even if often a good photo appears as a result of instant inspiration and "caught" the right moment, it is important to understand that knowledge of the theory is the basis that often makes the difference.


Rules of photo composition

One of the essential things from theory is knowing the basic rules of photography composition. In this text, we will state what those rules are and how to apply them.

What is composition?

The composition of photography, as with other visual arts, represents the arrangement of elements in a certain space, frame or format.


Elements of the photo can be:

  1. Shapes
  2. Form
  3. Textures
  4. color
  5. Empty space


Well-composed elements create a visual hierarchy and as such attract the attention of the viewer.

There are many rules of composition and it seems that new ones are constantly appearing as a result of experimentation and experience, but we have singled out the basic ones, with the use of which you can significantly improve the quality of photos, especially if you are not a professional.


Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is perhaps the most well-known rule and is very easy to apply. The basic thing is to divide your frame or format into approximately three equal parts along the horizontal and vertical axis so that you get a grid of 9 equal fields.

The elements should then be adjusted to those fields or to the lines and dots that separate them. The extent to which this rule is applied, whether it is for landscapes, portraits or other motifs, is also shown by the fact that the screens on mobile phones or cameras are often already visually divided by guidelines to facilitate the application of this rule.

The Golden ratio

The term golden ratio will be more familiar to many from geometry or architecture, but it is also used when creating compositions in art and photography. We should be honest and say that this rule is mainly used by more experienced photographers and is applied when the photo has more details and it is not really possible to apply the rule of thirds

Instead of nine equal rectangles, the frame is divided into a series of squares that form a golden spiral, also known as the Fibonacci spiral, which resembles a shell.


Creating the effect of the third dimension through plans make the photo richer and therefore more interesting for users. Photos with clearly defined plans are also grateful for the design and addition of graphic elements.

The effect of the third dimension is most easily achieved when the objects in the foreground are crystal clear and brighter, while the more distant objects are blurred (blurred) and darker.

Also, photos with an emphasized perspective give a distinct effect of the third dimension and depth.

Guide lines

While looking at a photograph, our eye unconsciously follows the flow within it. A flow that is primarily defined by lines and objects. What is characteristic of this rule of composition is that, with the help of guides, we clearly indicate to the users how to observe the photo according to the visual hierarchy.

Symmetry and asymmetry

Perfectly symmetrical photos like, for example, reflections on the surface of water, have a special kind of aesthetics that attract the attention of users, that is, observers.

However, rules like this simply provoke the rebellious side, if you break it, and thus asymmetry was founded as another rule.


"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."

Pablo Picasso

Negative space

Once you have decided on the subject you are photographing for aesthetics but also for functionality, it is important to leave room for it to "breathe", that space is called negative space because it does not contain elements important for photography.

A common mistake made with this rule is leaving too much negative space so that it "swallows" the subject.


The natural environment around the subject you are photographing, for example, a window, a door, or even a forest path framed by branches, etc. can define the frame for you by creating natural margins. It is also called frame in frame.

Photos like this also have depth and are soothing to the human eye.

These are just some of the rules of photo composition that are most often used and are considered the basics. Over time, with the acquisition of experience, photographers adhere to these rules less and less and develop their own, recognizable style.

For photographs used for commercial purposes, it is much more important that the subject is crystal clear and, to put it mildly, content is much more important than aesthetics. Such photos are easier to process and frame according to the needs of the project.


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Made by Sava Spasic - Senior Graphic Designer @Digitizer

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