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4 Rules to Improve the Composition in Your Photography

Composition is a fundamental word in many artistic disciplines and in photography, it's crucial. However, it's all too easy to get bogged down in rules and try to force images into preconceived notions of how they ought to look. In this video, Nigel Danson walks you through four of the rules he leans on for creating great images.

It didn't take a long time before I started looking into composition. I had bought my first camera, taken a few average snaps, and wanted to create great art. While an admirable goal, the lofty intention was unlikely to be achieved without studying the make-up of the most important art pieces of history. I don't believe I have ever created great art and it's unlikely I ever will, but my first steps into trying arguably sent me the wrong way.

I knew I had to learn how to compose a great shot. I was still interested in landscape photography at the time and I had heard the Rule of Thirds banded around. I then desperately tried to fit any scene into this rule. Ironically, one of the images that pushed me to do this was The Rhine II by Andreas Gursky, also known as one of the most expensive photographs ever sold. I say "ironically" because although it uses straight lines to divide the image, the horizon splits the image in two rather than placed on the upper or lower third, for instance.

What I really needed to understand was that the making of the great image isn't about trying to mash a landscape into a composition, but rather finding the right balance and cohesion of elements in the scene. Sometimes your images won't fit neatly into any compositional box, but as long as you follow a few staple rules (or can create a great image without them), your photography will likely be far more interesting.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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