The use of all these rules of composition is defined by the reason behind the photo we are taking. Photography is a language and before we “write” we should know what it is we want to tell and who we want our “readers” to be. This is fundamental. The rules of photography composition are the tools of this language that are at our disposal.

Personally, I find the Rule of Less Is More to be very satisfying and I always strive to keep it in mind because it centers us in what we are trying to show, to communicate. We shouldn’t be cowards; we must eliminate anything superfluous from a photo (if it can be eliminated that is). Always keep the rule in mind, so that when you want to break it you will be aware that you will be complicating things for yourself and increasing the complexity of the photo.

The Rule of Thirds is easier to integrates than it seem and effective as well, and the Rule of the Horizon Line is even easier.

As I mentioned in the introduction, many of these techniques can be put to use in after taking the photo by checking it in the lab. We can adjust color, symmetry, format, the Rule of Thirds, and if we aren’t purists, even the depth of field. But the results won’t be as good or as quick, and more importantly as satisfying, as applying these techniques at the moment of taking the photo. I encourage you to always make the effort to apply these rules of composition at the time you are capturing the image.

I would stress that empty space, the Rule of the Gaze, the Rule of Less Is More, and curved lines helps us express poetry in the photo with what it entails.

Finally, it’s not a question of having all these techniques of photography composition etched into your mind for every photo you take, but that they are being assimilated. You don’t have to apply every single one either. It depends on the photo; with one or two techniques the result can be excellent. In other photos you have to take into account many more of the composition concepts. It depends on the photo; it depends on you. And when you have them assimilated I recommend that you choose a maximum of two favorites and apply them constantly. It will help you develop a signature, your personal touch, the “glue” that holds your photos together.


How can we incorporate all these techniques in order for them to be fresh before we shoot? First of all: patiently, without obsessing. I’ve been taking photos for 6 years and I don’t have all these rules in mind when taking a photo, nor even the majority. But it’s important to practice in order to continue incorporating those that are most useful/fun for you until you arrive to the point where you put them into practice instinctively.

I propose that when you go out to take photos, go out with two well-studied techniques of photography composition and try to take 5 photos conscientiously (of the bunch that you take), using something of these two rules you have memorized. Later at home, in the lab, which could be whatever photo editing program on the computer, mark the photo with the name of the composition technique used and put an OK or a KO if the composition technique that you used was well executed and the result is acceptable. Keep combining different composition techniques with different excursions and once you’ve gone through all the rules, go back through the photos, analyzing the KOs and the OKs, also observing if you have by chance used any additional techniques in each photo.

The End

I hope that these explanations are useful and help you to enjoy your photography; but maybe more importantly, allow OTHERS to enjoy your photography. You can get in touch with me at the email [email protected] for whatever question about the tutorial, or with comments on this article from my blog, or on twitter with the hash tag #compofoto.

Tutorial developed by Lluís Ribes i Portillo. This work is under license Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial 3.0 Unported