Photography for beginners

Guidelines to composition

I am going to give ten "rules", but the number is arbitrary.  You should start with these, but listen to what the judges say and update your knowledge as you go along.  You will find that some judges place more weight on particular guidelines and ignore others, and this often varies between the judges, so it can be a good idea to keep notes on the judges for reference; which are their pet likes and dislikes.  This can be invaluable when selecting which images to enter.

1. Simplify.

Don't try to get everything in, but look for what is the main and most interesting part of the scene and concentrate on that.  Very often you can do this by getting closer to your subject.  For example you may notice a cartwheel mounted on the side of a house and think that is interesting, but don't take the whole house and garden, as then the cartwheel may not be noticed, and people will think the house itself is the subject.  Get in close so that the cartwheel fills the frame, with just enough of the brick work in the background to give context and show it is mounted on the side of a house.

2. ROT Rule of thirds.

Again that word rule, but it is known as that.  It is not a rule as it doesn't have to be 1/3-2/3, but it could be 2/5-3/5, or it could be the golden ratio.  Really it is just avoid boring symmetry, e.g. centred four square symmetry, i.e. splitting the image into halves or quarters.  However symmetry can be effective and add to your image as we shall see later.  The key word is boring.  If the symmetry is all there is to the image and the subject does not have an interest of its own, then the image may not do well.

3. Balance.

Using the ROT can leave an empty void in the rest of the image, so try and balance your main subject with a secondary supporting subject.  Say you have a lighthouse on the right then have some background shoreline and/or cliffs on the left.  Or if you have a boat in the foreground on the left, then have some smaller boats (further back) on the right, or some seagulls.

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