8 Top Compositional Rules

In Under 500 Words

Is it possible to speed teach a new photographer about composition in less that 500 words? We honestly, don’t know, but we are going to give it a damn good try!

Firstly, this intro doesn’t count, we’re not that brave! We’ll let you know when our word count begins.

So why are we doing this? Well it’s not to oversimplify the rules of photography and somehow diminish their importance.

Instead, we hope it’s a little refresher to those photographers just want a little a quick reminder on different ways to compose their shots.

And if you want to see if we actually kept ourselves in check then feel free to copy and paste the follow text in to word counter.

Here we go…begin the count…

view through camera rule of thirds building
landscape rule of thirds composition rules

Rule of Thirds

Split your frame into 9 areas using 2 horizontal and vertical lines.

Place different elements into each row or column. Important subjects sit on the cross points.

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Leading Lines

Use strong visual lines to force the attention of your audience through your image or towards a subject.

Lines can be straight or curved.

Consecutive lines can increase the impact.

leading lines composition rules

Balancing Elements

When using negative space place a small sub-subject in the void opposite to your main subject.

This should be an item/feature that adds more backstory to the image.

Golden Spiral

Using the mathematics of Fibonacci, the Golden Spiral or Golden Ratio is an uncommon photography composition.

Based on the ratio 1:1.618, it is a complexed series of areas larger than the one before.

It creates a through line which charts a perfect yet invisible compositional curve. 

golden spiral composition rules
landscape reflections


By using water, glass, mirrors and highly polished surfaces, reflections offer a double view on a single subject.

Used most commonly in landscape and street photography.

Reflections offer an abstract approach by having one inverted view.

Frame within a Frame

Aim to create another frame within your image which encapsulates your main subject.

Think about archways, doorways, tunnels, picture frames or windows for example.

The more edges to your frame you can apply the stronger the composition will be.   

frame within a frame the eiffel tower, france composition rules
patterns composition rules


Strong patterns in a photograph offer a pleasing composition.

Think about using contrasting patterns between foreground and background as well as matching patterns working in opposite directions for a contrasting effect.

Use complementary colours to achieve a bolder finish.


Post-production cropping of your photograph can enhance the final composition of your image.

If you aren’t able to achieve your perfect shot in camera then tweak it afterwards by removing those distracting elements.

Try to keep to set ratios of 1:1, 3:2, 5:4 or 16:9 to make the crop cleaner and comfortable on the eye.

Yes! 450 words, including the titles! Phew, that was actually quite tricky detailing all those composition rules. Hopefully it was still useful to those of you who wanted a little refresher course.

We wonder whether we could cover some other topics, just like composition rules, in under 500 words. Let us know if there’s any other areas of photography that you need a little brush up on.

Get in touch with us on iPhotography as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

By the way, this whole blog is 530 words long….oh hang on 536, no 538, 539…..

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