How To Make Better Photographic Compositions

Posted on September 18, 2008. Filed under: Net Spy | Tags: , , , |

In addition to my last week post about basic and creative compositional techniques for photo contests, here are more composition guidelines which are equally useful.


In photo contests, simplicity is the first and most important thing you need to know. Find ways to make the theme of your picture stand out. One way to do this is to select uncomplicated background that will not steal attention from your subjects. Photographers avoid unrelated subjects and often moving close to the subject to strengthen the center of interest. In photo competitions, if you want to make your center of interest even more dynamic, place it slightly off center in your frame. Generally, pictures with subjects directly in the center tend to be more static and less interesting than pictures with off-center subject placement.

Rule of Thirds

Almost all photo competition display this rule in a wide variety and is often combined with other photo compositions techniques. You can use the rule of thirds as a guide in the off-center placement of your subjects. Here’s how it works.

Before taking the picture, imagine your picture area divided into third both horizontally and vertically. The four intersections of these imaginary lines suggest the placement of your subject for better composition. Select where you want your subject to be placed and that depends on how you would like your subject to be presented.


Lines also play a critical role in picture contests. Photographers use lines as a direct way of leading the viewer’s eye from one point to another. Using triangular lines will help you find your way back. One line leads your eye to the subject and the other brings your eye back to your starting point.

S-Curves or Shapes

pic pic
pic pic

In picture contests, using shapes is a more relaxed casual way to lead the eye through the composition. A road, a stream, or even the shape of the ground or grasses in front of you can do this very well.



Photography contests entries also make use of textures because it can add depth and detail to the image. Texture is usually a direct by-product of side lighting. As the light from the sun comes across your image, it sheds light on one side and shadow on the other, thus creating texture and more interest than a flatly lit subject.

Depth of Field


Another useful technique for photography contests is using adequate depth of field. You may have exercised any one of these standards of good composition, but if you failed to achieve adequate depth of field, your images may leave you dissatisfied. Unfortunately many of today’s lenses lack a depth of field scale and/or depth of field preview buttons. One easy way to assure maximum depth in your photograph is use as small lens aperture such as f/16 or f/22 and then focus a third of the way into the scene. Not the actual physical distance of the closest object in your picture to the farthest, but a third of the way into your frame as you look through the viewfinder. Use your depth-of-field preview button (if you have one) to stop the lens down to its taking aperture to visually check and see if everything looks sharp. Take your time and allow your eye to adjust to the darkened image in the viewfinder. A ‘dark cloth’ or coat can be handy to shield the sun as you look into the viewfinder. Depth-of-field and critical focus is very important to the finished image. Another way to get maximum depth of field is to focus at your lens’ hyper-focal distance which is what you’re simulating by focusing 1/3rd of the way into the scene.

To see how John Warton, senior photo editor at Photo Laureates reviews photographs and meet, go to


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