A Quick Crash Course on Photography Composition for Beginners

If you're a beginner to photography or are looking to add some theory to improve your work, this video might be perfect for you. While brief, it gives you a great overview of the important basics of composition.

I am always conflicted about composition. It is undoubtedly important and the rules we learn have been passed down for hundreds of years through the art world. There is undoubtedly truth to them and knowing the fundamentals can help you take better photographs. The reason I am conflicted is that many photographers — beginners through to seasoned pros — can get hung up on trying to force every frame into a compositional rule.

This issue likely comes down to having to learn the rules in order to know how to break them, and I would certainly recommend that every photographer takes the time to learn about theory in art, but remember they are more guidelines than rules. I still look to put key elements of my image on intersections of the rule of thirds grid, but if I see a balanced composition that will be pleasing and doesn't abide by any of the start compositional styles, I will go for it without hesitation.

What do you make of compositional "rules"? Should they always be obeyed, seen as guidelines, or ignored entirely as relics of a bygone era? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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3 Comments
Brendan Kavanagh's picture

What do you make of compositional "rules"?

Disregard them as if you'd never heard of them.
If your image looks right to you, that's all that matters.

Larry Chism's picture

The best composition guidance I have received was from Vernon Maryfield and reaffirmed by Michael Melford: Go to the art museums and look at the work hanging on the walls; especially Monet and Vermeer. They don't care about the rule of 3rds or etc. just how the image flows and supports the main subject.

Michelle Maani's picture

My mother was a oil painting artist, and studied at the Royal Art Academy in Antwerp. When I started photography she looked at my work and said, "Make sure your horizons are straight so it doesn't look like the ocean is running downhill. Don't put your subject splat in the middle of the picture, unless you're doing a closeup." Yes, I've studied the rules of composition since then, but those are the two I remember. And they didn't come from a photographer, but from someone classically trained in art.