Taking Photos Like a Pro

Composition Basics to get you started

James Halliday

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Photo by James Halliday (Author)

Let’s get one thing straight. There are no ‘rules’ in photography. It’s an art form, so it’s open to interpretation and opinion.

There are guidelines to help you compose a picture that’s pleasing or interesting to look at, that leads the eye to the subject, that balances the ‘frame, or creates specific effects.

But they’re not rules.

So, let’s start with the first one.

The Rule of Thirds

I know, I know. So I just said there are no rules, and I opened with something called ‘The Rule of Thirds’.

But that’s its name. Much as I would like to call it ‘the general guideline of thirds’, the official title rolls off the tongue more easily.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. The point is that it’s a simple way of dividing the frame to help you compose pictures.

So what is it?

Well, the idea is that when you’re looking at the image on your camera, whether through a viewfinder or on a screen, in your head, you divide the image roughly into three parts, both horizontally and vertically.

Now, many cameras overlay a grid on the screen. Indeed, my iPhone does.

It looks like this:

Frame outline showing ‘rule of thirds’ lines and nodes — Drawing by Author

The two vertical lines and the two horizontal lines that divide the segments are roughly where you should position the key features in your frame.

So, for example, you’d put the horizon on the upper horizontal line if something is interesting on the ground you want to capture. Or if the clouds are exciting or it’s a fantastic sunrise, the horizon goes on the lower line.

Drawing by Author

Likewise, with the vertical lines, you’d put a person on the right line looking left, or a cat, or a dog.

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James Halliday

Project manager in live television, background in engineering and logistics. Biker, vegan, dad to two tiny terrors. Love travel, food, walking and photography