Composition: How to take a profiPhoto – Part 1

How do you take that one photograph that transcends the boundary of a mundane amateur photo into an awe inspiring photo masterpiece? Well it’s not an overnight process …

There are many compositional techniques involved in taking an exceptional photograph. A few good photographers and artists seem to be blessed with an understanding of good composition while many others have learned and mastered the techniques. Most everyone can learn simple compositional rules and with enough practice they will be reflected in all of the photographs you take.


Lines & ShapesOf the six elements of design – line, shape, form, texture, pattern and colour – line is the strongest. It sits at the core of the other building blocks of photographic composition. You see lines in your everyday life and have probably never stopped to analyze them.

Diagonal lines evoke feelings of movement and activity. In a photograph they can lead the eye into or out of the frame. They can suggest speed or calm. Take a look at some of the photos you taken and see if you can spot the elements of line at work. Take note of what emotions are brought out in you. A successful photo “always” invokes an emotion in the viewer, and as photographer, it is your job to convey the feeling that you felt when you “saw” the photo to your viewers.

Tip: the diagonal line, when incorporated into your composition, will always breathe fresh life into an otherwise static image.

In nature we find an abundance of curved lines. Think of how you feel when you see waves at the beach, a winding river, the rolling hills in the countryside or sand dunes. Each scene invokes an emotion in us based on our past life experiences.

Curvy RoadA winding road for example, conveys a relaxed, carefree emotion. The subtle curves puts the viewer at ease and at the same time, on a sub-conscious level, intrigues the user to wonder where that road leads.

Jagged lines can be experienced as dangerous, forceful, chaotic and threatening. Examples from nature would include mountain peaks, rock cliffs or a lightning bolt. Who hasn’t seen one of those and sensed the beauty but also the inherent danger associated with them?


If you’d like to take part in this ongoing series of compositional articles, I’d like to present you with an assignment. Go out and shoot 10-30 photos keeping in mind the theme – lines. Look for lines wherever you go, straight, diagonal, curved, jagged – you’re sure to find them. Analyze what it is that appeals to you in each subject you intend to photograph. For example, the converging lines caused by railroad tracks could leave an emotion of strength, wonder, mystery or whatever. The important thing is to examine what emotion you feel and try to find the angle, position or view that best brings across that feeling in your photo.

Leading WhereThen pick your best 2 or 3 photos and upload them to this site* (upload feature will be working within a week). If you like, describe what emotion the lines in the photo invoke in you. If you’re successful others will also experience them. The best photos will be compiled into a flash gallery and added as a permanent collection of this site.

Congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a better photographer.

*All photographs submitted will only be used for purposes of supplementing the articles in this site. By uploading your photos you retain the full copyright of your photographic work.

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