Photography: 8 easy composition guidelines to improve your skills

To begin with, I would like to highlight the simplicity of the following rules because I, myself, am not a professional photographer yet have succeeded at it as a hobby. These fundamental photography guidelines will help you take a perfect shot easily. 

Before I post a picture on my Instagram account, I usually ask people around me what they think of the picture’s composition and most of the time they would get curious when I say “composition”.

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A photo posted by Lina Soufi (@linasoufi) on


My goal is simple: I want to take a great shot in the easiest and quickest way possible.

Today, we have the opportunity to experiment more affordably and efficiently due to the easy and friendly technology we have access to. Here’s what I am talking about:

1-         Phone cameras are now technically incredibly precise.

2-         You always have your phone with you. So, why not use your camera?

Learning about composition and using it did actually change the way I see things. When I see a very simple door for example, using the rules of composition helped me create a visually appealing shot. 


So, what is composition?

You can compose a choreography, you can compose a melody and you can also compose visual art. The term determines the placement of the objects and elements in the work. It’s a simple recipe: you need your ingredients to make a great dish and you need composition to create art.

Composing an image means arranging all the elements in the shot in a way to serve the purpose of the photograph. This can be done by either moving the elements and rearranging them physically or by having the photographer move to get the angle they are aiming for. Sometimes, you just wait for an element to pass by for a great shot.

Composing a work of art is a way of guiding the viewer’s eye towards the most important element in your work.

These following 8 simple and easy composition rules will allow you to improve your photography skills.

#1 Rule of thirds: 

This is the most used and simple rule.

You just have to divide the frame into 9 equal rectangles and place the most important element in one of the intersection of the lines as seen below. The purpose of this rule is to highlight the element you want to show off.

As you can see in these photographs I have attached, the sun and the man with the bike are the highlighted elements because they are placed on an intersection point on the grid.

Enable the grid on your phone:
iPhone: Settings > Photo & Camera > Grid > On
Android: Camera > Settings > Grid Line > On

#2     Leading Lines

This rule takes advantage of the natural lines in the frame to lead the viewers’ eyes into the element you would like to highlight.

Leading lines help the viewer focus on the most important element in the frame. Whether the lines lead you to an element you would like to highlight or not, it’s the lines that are the key of the photograph.

In this photograph, the train rails lead your eyes to the young woman.


#3    Framing

Your frame becomes a natural one. An element within another. Here I have chosen this picture to demonstrate how framing can create a beautiful story.

The frame is a window in Hagia Sophia and the element is the Blue Mosque. A window from what was historically known as a church framing the mosque. A frame within a frame. 


#4  Patterns and Repetition

The repetitiveness and patterns create a beautiful illusion and makes it appealing to both the mind and the eye.

You can find repetitive patterns all around you. Repetition creates a pattern. Just look at the floor tiles or this photograph I’ve taken of stacked chairs in an auditorium. Remember, breaking the rules can be beautiful.

“Patterns Are Aesthetically Pleasing, But Are Best When Interrupted.”
- Steve McCurry.


#5 Symmetry

Not to be confused with patterns and repetition nor leading lines, symmetry plays on reflection a lot more than geometry.

This photograph demonstrates perfectly how symmetry works. No element needs to be in focus, just the symmetry. 


#6   Fill the Frame

This composition is basically another term for close-ups. Nothing is in the frame except the element that needs to be highlighted only.

I advise you to get physically close to the element rather than zoom in.


#7 Colors

This will allow you to contrast two or more colors. It is always visually more appealing when the contrast is between cold and warm colors. Just like this photograph: the colors in contrast are yellowish-brown sand (being the warm color) & Blue sky (being the cold color).

It’s important to note that lighting is crucial to reflect the contrast. 

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 #8  Experimentation

“Remember, the composition is important, but also rules are meant to be broken.” - Steve McCurry

Couldn’t have been said better!

So, to conclude, experiment with or without rules. Just keep trying and most importantly have fun.

For more photography inspiration follow Blue Hat's account or Lina Soufi's Instagram . 

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