What is Composition?

Composition is the art of arranging the visual elements within your frame.

To start in photography, you have a frame, an empty black canvas:

Your frame: an empty black canvas.

Now imagine yourself looking through a viewfinder, with the white edges as the edges as the viewfinder edges:

If you’re photographing a person — where do you place them in the frame? In the center?

Center composition of a subject in the frame.

Or do you put them off a little to the right?

Subject framed on the right of the frame

Or do you frame your subject on the left?

Subject on left of the frame

Do you include their entire face, or cut off parts of their face?

Generally, to make more dynamic compositions of a subject, place them according to the “Golden rectangle” composition — at the intersection of reciprocal diagonal line:

In composition, if you introduce another character (let’s say our red triangle friend)— you want to create some SEPARATION between them two, like this:

Separation of red and circular friends

You don’t want your friends to overlap:

Too crowded, avoid these guys from over lapping

Rather, give them room to breathe. See them arranged and composed in different parts of the frame:

To me, what makes photography fun and challenging is composition.

We take bits and pieces from reality, and it is our skill as photographers, how we decide to arrange these different elements. The better you can arrange the elements inside your frame, the better compositions you will make. And the better your compositions, the more engaging and powerful your photos.

Let us show if we introduce (yet another) friend — our blue lightning bolt (has glasses, just like me). See how the composition is different, based on the arrangement of these guys:

Also, see how by giving them some space, you can arrange them in a triangle composition:

Triangle composition of these three guys, shown in pink

Now, we don’t want the frame to be too off-balanced, by putting them all on just the left or the right of the frame:

So the basic takeaways in composition is this:

  1. Composition is how you ARRANGE different shapes, forms, and subjects in your frame.
  2. Don’t crowd your subjects or elements in the frame. Avoid overlap, and give them room to breathe.
  3. Make balanced compositions by placing elements equally throughout the frame.

Learn more fundamentals of composition with this free PDF visualization >