What is Composition in Photography? A Quick Guide

Composition is one of the most important things in photography. Great photos are firstly well composed, yet beginners oversee this technique when they start photography but it takes some composition techniques to take a great photograph.

In this article, we will give you some tips and information to help you understand what is a composition in photography.

What is composition in photography?

Composition is a technique of placing subjects and elements in a photograph in order to properly convey the intended message of the photograph to the viewer. 

You can not neglect the composition while taking pictures and just get away with it even if all other aspects like aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all well set. 

This reminds me every time non-photographers ask you for your camera to take a family group photo and you give them the camera with all the settings properly set and you forget to give them hints on composition. The regret is instant and most of the time due to the lack of composition.

How to improve composition of your photos?

First of all, even though composition is very important, it is one of the techniques which has a lot of ways to make it happen. You can do a good composition by playing with your lens, positioning your camera, or playing with the distances between you and the subject, but before that :

Ask yourself WHY before HOW in composition

In photography in general, you are documenting what you are seeing, you are making images, memories and stories. Composition should be one of the pillars in conveying this intention. So before taking a picture, you should ask yourself, what do I want to show to my viewers, what should be the focus of their attention, and so on… This helps define the edges and limits of your composition, what to include, and what to exclude when composing your image.

Leading lines and shapes

When making a photo composition you need to pay attention to lines in the photograph and shapes. Our minds always form shapes in what our eyes are seeing. So make composition accordingly it helps to draw your viewers’ attention to the subject or shape in a photograph.

The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds comes from the idea that our eyes will automatically tend to look at the thirds of the picture frame. So when doing a composition, you will need to mentally divide the view in thirds vertically and horizontally and place the subject at the intersection of the points.

Yes, you can center your composition

A lot of photographers are obsessed with the rule of thirds, but it’s not a rule of the law, it all depends. In a situation where for example you want to show the perfect symmetry of the view, you can forget about the rule of thirds and perfectly center your subject. There are other situations you won’t need to follow the rules but actually break them to show your story. Remember you are the creator of your images. 

Remove distractions

Less is more, remove distractions as much as you can in your compositions, unless those distractions are part of the story of the photograph. It’s possible that the main message you want to show is how busy a part of a city is, then your composition will include some visual noise documenting all of what’s going on there. So, it all depends…

Take your time

It took me several years and a lot of wasted photos to realize that the hurry was costing me a lot of time and energy. Sometimes it’s a natural excitement of a beautiful scene to photograph but you should always bear in mind that you are taking a timeless story, so take your time to do the right composition, this advice actually applies to other aspects of doing the right settings before taking a picture.

Examples of compositions

Composition using the rule of thirds
Composition by representing the reflection on water with symmetry.


Composition is so important to make clear what is the center of attention for your image. You need to think about the story before making any move to capture the image, make your images understandable in terms of meaning by doing the right composition. Remember you can always fix the composition in the post-processing tools but it’s always better to get it right on camera. This is only as a plan B.