The 12 Photography Composition Rules

6 Mins read

Understanding composition is one aspect that every photographer should create time to do. With no need for purchasing expensive gear, learning the elements of great photo composition will undoubtedly transform your photographic work. Since photography in Dubai is getting more competitive, find time to practice some of the image compositional tools below to enhance your ability as a freelance photographer in Dubai.

The biggest problem with photography is that it’s the only rule is there are no rules. There is no rule you can’t break when composing your photographs. There are several guiding principles you can apply in nearly every situation, to develop impactful scenes. While nurturing your photographic eye can come naturally, it doesn’t work in every case. For some, honing their visual skills and abilities takes time and effort. 

Here is a selection of 12 tips and hints that will be of use when considering the composition of your work. 

1. The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the most famous composition techniques. The trick is to divide your photo frame into nine equal rectangles, three down and three across. The latest cameras offer an option to display the rule of the third grid in live view mode on the LCD screen, which makes it even simpler to apply. 

Imagine that nine equal segments are dividing your image using two vertical and two horizontal lines. The concept here is to place the useful scene elements along those lines or at the intersecting points. 

Doing so adds some balance and interest to your photo. 

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The illustration shows how to use the grids of the rule of thirds in an image. Source: Envira Gallery 

2. Balancing Elements

After learning the balancing technique,  we are going to show you to do the exact opposite. The subject in the center of your frame functions well in some situations. For example, symmetrical scenes are excellent for a centered photographic composition. Additionally, they also look great in square frames, hence the name balancing elements.

In this illustration, the artist uses different balancing methods:

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  • The off-center subject – asymmetrical
  • Negative space with small shadow- counterbalance 
  • Horizontal and converging lines – solid base

The three styles result in a stable and balanced creation. 

Source: Expert Photography

Balance in photography is one of the essential elements of effective composition that baby photographers in Dubai use in their shots. Infants are particularly difficult to shoot, as their tiny physique often makes them unbalanced in most scenes. You can use the symmetry of balanced composition to create pleasing and harmonious baby photography shots.

3. Foreground Interest + Depth

Since photos are 2-dimensional by nature, foreground interest is a great composition technique that you can use to add some sense of depth to a scene. Dubai has some of the trendiest photo-shoot sites, which come at a cost. The debut of your freelance photography career has everything working on a budget. You may not afford to pay for Dubai’s trendiest photo-shoot venues with budget limitations. Nevertheless, exploiting the foreground interest composition rule is an excellent way to give your creations the 3-D feel, without investing in trendier shooting sites.

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See how this composition creates the illusion of depth when in a real sense there is none. The artist uses strong elements in the image’s foreground; water waves leading to distant mountains

Source: Digital Photography School

4. Frame Within a Frame

Also known as a framing scene with arc, the composition offers another effective way of representing depth in a view. To use this technique, you’ll want to look for elements like overhanging branches, arches, or windows with which to frame the scene. The frames don’t always have to surround the whole scene to be perfect. Aside from that, do not restrict your style to human-made objects like when choosing the frames.

The frame within a frame comes as an excellent opportunity to leverage surroundings to achieve creativity in your compositions.

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How to use the frame within a frame composition to add some depth to your image. Source: Photography Talk

5. Leading Lines

You can use leading lines when you want to direct the viewer through your image and give attention to essential elements. The leading lines could be anything from patterns, paths, or walls. Moreover, leading lines do not have to be straight because curved lines can also make very striking features of compositions.

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How to use leading lines in your image composition. Source: Format

6. Patterns and Textures

Our natural attraction to patterns makes the patterns and textures an impressive technique for compositions. In addition to being visually attractive, patterns often suggest harmony. There is a wide selection of patterns, including a series of arches or the more natural petals on a flower. You can incorporate patterns in a photograph to make a pleasing composition. Working with less regular patterns can also result in visually impressive images.

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An example illustrating how to use symmetry, patterns, and textures, for composing visually impressive images

Source: DigimadMedia

7. Rule of Odds

The rule of odds technique talks of rules in a world with no rules. The rule uses an odd number of objects in a picture to create visually appealing photographs. According to the rule of odds theory, having an even number of subjects in an image makes the composition distracting, as the viewer cannot decide which one to focus their attention on.

On the other hand, an odd number of elements is perceived to be more natural, making it easier for the eyes to focus. The rule of odds is one of the most useful tips professional photographers are using today. 

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An example of the rule of odds in photography

Source: Expert Photography

8. Fill the Frame

Some situations come out perfect when you fill the frame with your subject and leave little space. Doing so helps to ultimately get the focus of a viewer on one element, without creating distractions. Using the technique in your composition allows viewers to explore all the details of the subject, which would not have been possible if the shot was taken from a distance. When using the method, you might want to get in so close as to crop out some elements of your subject. If done right, fill the frame can lead to highly original and exciting compositions.

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An example of fill the frame composition rule 

Source: Picture Correct

9. Leave negative space

We are about to encounter another contradiction in photograph composition. Previously, filling the frame would work out perfectly as a composition tool. In this case, doing the exact opposite can also be an excellent photo enhancement method. Leaving out plenty of empty or negative space on your subject creates striking images.

Simple shots are the best way to begin freelancing as a photographer. For that reason, the negative space composition can be a perfect photography guide in achieving simplicity and minimalism in your scenes. As the case with filling the frame, you will have the viewer’s focus on the main subject with no distractions. 

Leave the negative space composition technique in an image

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Source: Photography Mad

10. Simplicity and Minimalism

While leaving space around your primary subject can realize simplicity and minimalism in your scene, simplicity on its own can be an effective compositional technique. Simplicity embodies the rule of less is more by taking pictures with uncomplicated backgrounds, which is a non-distraction element for your main subject. Alternatively, zoom in on the part of your subject while focusing on a specific detail for a simple composition.

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Simplicity and minimalism example with an uncomplicated background as a non-distracting element

Source: Simplicity Hunter

11. Isolate your Subject

Taking photos with a shallow depth of field will isolate your subject and effectively simplify your composition. You will want to use a wider aperture to blur the background, which would otherwise distract from the primary subject. Isolate the subject is particularly useful for shooting portraits.

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An example of an image taken with a shallow depth of field or Bokeh to isolate the subject

Source: Picture Correct

12. Change of Point of View

Freelancing - Screen Shot 2019 11 26 At 1.10.28 Pm Scaled 1 Most photoshoots use the eye-level point of view. You can get low down or high up to create original and more interesting compositions of familiar objects. We’ve all seen how wildlife photographers lie on their bellies to find that perfect shot. In doing so, they are changing the point of view to capture the same subjects, though in a different way.

Changing the viewpoint from eye level to the down low to create more interesting scenes

Source: Pinterest

Example 2

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Changing the viewpoint from eye level to high up to compose an interesting image

Source: Live Digital Photo Academy

Photographic composition is not a rule of science. Therefore, all the techniques here and others out there are not cast in stone. You can bend, break, and re-invent so to achieve your perfect shots. If you find one method not working in your scene, overlook it, and find another composition that contradicts what you had earlier. However, these techniques can prove to be excellent and are worth trying when you are on the field with your camera.


It is essential to understand that there is no perfect composition. Photography composition is a subjective form of art, one in which you can never achieve perfect creations. Excellence often comes from being creative, depending on the situation and the scene. You will want to consider a client’s point of view when creating compositions as a freelance photographer. The approach will go a long way to win your top clients in your freelancing career. If you need somewhere to start your professional photography works and connect with potential clients, sign up for free at Bawabba and join a popular online network of freelance photographers in Dubai

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