14 Composition Techniques You Should Know
Composition is a way of guiding the viewer’s eye towards the most important elements of your work, sometimes – in a very specific order, by placing the items with intention along leading lines, intersections or in geometrical shapes. Here are some of the most common composition techniques for you to try!
1. Rule of 3rds
The idea is that placing your subjects off-center yields a stronger, more natural-looking composition and allows you to make creative use of negative space. Imagine a 3×3 grid that divides your frame into nine equal sections (by two vertical and two horizontal lines). Place your main subject on one intersection and add a secondary item on another to move the the viewer's eye around the frame.
Guided movement = interesting composition!
2. Leading Lines & Diagonals
Diagonal lines are a simple, yet effective way to breathe life and energy into a static composition and to create a dynamic sense of movement. According to the diagonal rule, we should place the important elements of the picture along diagonal lines. The lines help guide the viewers’ eyes from the frame to the product, placing emphasis on the most important element of the scene.
3. Triangle / Rule of Odds
The human eye loves geometry. Creating pleasing shapes, clean lines and distinctive angles in your flat lay photography is a shortcut to making engaging, satisfying images. A common form of using the rule of odds is to have three subjects in the frame. This way, they either always form a line, or a triangle, and both of these are really visually pleasing shapes in a composition
Your eye tends to naturally wander to the middle of a group, so using the rule of odds in your food photography, is a great, easy way to draw your viewers eye to exactly the part of the photo you want them to focus on.
5. Geometric Order
Our eyes love order and lines! Simply place your hero object in the middle of the scene, 4 props on each corner and keep filling the inside of the square with elements that add to the feeling of the image you want to create. P.S. It doesn't only have to be a square!
6. Golden Triangle
This is a twist on the rule of thirds. Divide the frame diagonally first, and then into four triangles from the other corners. The idea is to draw attention to the intersections of the triangles and create a visually rich flat lay. Place the main subject at the intersections of the lines and other props along the leading lines to guide the eye from the outside to the focal point.
7. Golden Ratio: Fibonacci Spiral
The Fibonacci spiral is based on the Golden Ratio, which is 1:1.168 and is said to be the perfect number. It is perfectly balanced and pleasing to the eye. By putting your subjects along a curved line rather than a straight line. Doing so creates flow and movement, guiding your viewer’s eye around the image. What’s important is that your focal point falls in the smallest part of the spiral. You should also place other essential elements along the curve.
Another great technique to try out is to follow the curve of a wave to create an image that flows naturally, also known as the 'line of beauty". With this technique, you can fit quite a lot into a photo without it feeling overly stuffy or crowded and use lines to move back and forth horizontally through the image as the eye travels vertically though the scene Start off by imagining an S curve in your frame and add objects, layers, and textures along the S shape to add dimension and fill your frame. If you have lots of elements you can continue the S curve further!
C-curve is the simplest curve you can use! It’s subtle and adds dynamic to the photo without being too obvious. It connects objects in your frame in a way that makes the eye flow through those items towards the main subject from one corner to the other.
Symmetry is a widely taught compositional technique used for creating visual balance in your photos. We unconsciously look for symmetry in all things. A photograph with elements that are almost perfectly balanced usually makes for a very appealing image. You can also try to intentionally break the symmetry to draw the eye to a specific focal point!
11. Negative Space | Off Centre
The easiest way to have a clear and strong composition is to keep things simple and give the hero item all the attention it deserves. Leave around two thirds of the image completely empty to draw the eye directly to the intended focus. Interestingly, your eyes are more likely to be drawn to an item placed off centre, than to one positioned right in the middle so make sure to place your hero somewhere else (maybe at one intersection point of the rule of thirds?)
Also called sub-framing, this type of compositional technique involves using or adding frame elements to emphasise and lead the viewer’s eye towards your subject or to simply and create a more aesthetically- pleasing image. Choose props that tell more about the main subject. You can work with any shape or form, as long as it helps bring focus to your main element
13. Filling the Frame
Another creative way of shooting a subject is to fully fill the frame and get every single detail that may not be readily noticeable by the naked eye. Choose an element with an interesting texture and something that you associate with the feeling you want to achieve and create some amazing new abstract patterns!
14. Colour / Contrast
Use colour to create stunning photographs and strengthen the message behind your images. Choose one colour for the entire set and play with different hues to create pretty visuals, complementary colours to make the hero pop or analogous for aesthetically pleasing images. Contrast works similarly in improving your composition, more so for monochromatic images.
SOME MORE COMPOSITION TIPS:
- Choose between order, chaos, balance
- Print out our Composition Layers and keep it next to your set to train your
eyes looking at it and imagining the lines, intersections etc.
- The human eye loves geometry. Creating pleasing shapes, clean lines and
distinctive angles in your flat lay photography is a shortcut to making
engaging, satisfying images.
- Use odd numbers! The rule of odds states that when you’re including a
group of subjects in your photo, an odd number, rather than an even number will produce a more interesting, and more visually pleasing composition.
- Make it look realistic: get messy and use food spills and crumbles but
incorporate them into your composition layout!
- Take inspiration from a shape in nature and mirror that (River, Flower...)