Composition of a Photograph

Do you usually point the camera at what you want to take a picture of, move the camera around until it looks right and press the button and see what happens? Learning how the composition of a photograph can alter the final feel of the image can make a big difference to the outcome.

a tree with frozen water in the foreground

The five stages below can be used to compose a photograph that you are proud of and actually works.


The foreground is usually smaller than the main part of the image and leads the viewer in to the subject and supports the subject and background without dominating the image.  

When looking at the foreground use the landscape and find something coming in from a corner and snaking its way across the image to draw the viewer into the story of the photograph.  Paths and rivers work really well for this.

The road will take you through this picture and around the corner


Backgrounds support the subject of your image and put it into context.  

You may be tempted to have a background that is too busy which takes over from the subject and dominates the image.  

Looking at the background as part of the composition really helps to get the balance right.  

When taking wildlife shots remember to look at what is coming out of the head.  There is nothing worse than an animal with a second bottom or a tree growing out of their head.

Shame about the tree behind!


The subject is the point of your photograph.  

Make it clear to the viewer what the subject actually is.  

Too much going on will confuse the viewer.  

Good if that is the intention but the majority of the time a photograph needs a focus point.

Hopefully it is clear that the sheep are the focus!


Balancing the Elements

Once all the part of the elements are selected time needs to be taken to get them in the right place.  

Is what you have, what you want?  

Sometimes you need to move around and look at the big picture to get the image you really want.  

Moving around shows you the subject in different ways, altering your level and angle will change the subject giving a totally different perspective.

The Sun Voyager in Reykjavík from a different angle changes it completely

Breaking the Rules

As with everything these rules are made to be broken.  

Landscape photography sometimes makes the foreground the subject.  

Boulders and objects become the subject with the actual landscape becoming the background.

Lots of rules broken in this one but it works in its own way