Qualities of great photographic composition

Casting Light

“Casting Light” Orrest Head, Windermere UK

In photography, I would like to describe composition as a way in which the photographer utilized purposefully and intentionally as a basic structure to layout the message that he/she wanted to convey in a photo. It is usually the very first thing that the photographer would look at either through his imaginative vision or through the camera’s viewfinder on a particular subject. This often requires a lot of observation, practices and receiving constructive feedbacks from other seasoned photographer.

How to create a strong and great photo composition? Before we can know if the composition of a photograph created is great, we need to first understand the quality and characteristic behinds them. Note that also, I have chosen to use the word ‘great composition’ rather than ‘good composition’ is because it is hard to clearly define the boundary between what is good and bad in art. Since art can be very abstract, each artist has their own interpretation of what is good or bad. A straight photography movement can be very different from an abstract photography while a minimalism photography movement will be very different from a f.64 photography movement that is full of details and complexity. Therefore, I personally prefer to use the word ‘great composition’ as a way to reflect the capability of a photographer whether he/she is able to create the artwork that he/she envisioned to express. Thus, this does not limit the creativity of the artist to only a set of rules.

Below I have listed some of the important qualities that will help to explain what makes a great photography composition;

1. Right choice of color template – Besides mastering and understanding how the use of light in photography work, one also needs to learn the skills in color selection. Like many other art medium, the right mixture of color is one of the important aspect in creating beautiful art. It affects the mood and ambience that you wanted to show in your photograph.

2. Personal style and know where you fit in the photography movement – Although this is another topic in itself, however they also functions as an essential tool in shaping the way we compose and arrange our photograph. An abstract photographer would set up his/her stage very differently from the way a minimalist photographer chooses the scene. This is because each different movement has their very own unique character and personality to it. They cannot be created with the same technique and they don’t fit in together very well.

3. Know how and successfully demonstrated the main subject – A very basic yet fundamental aspect in creating art that could easily explain to your audience the story you intended to tell in the picture.

4. Frame with a view – This is usually one technique and effective way to create photograph that draws the attention of the audience into the subject that in within the frame.

 5. Near and far – This approaches is widely use among many landscape photographer. This is especially useful when capturing a strong contrast between two subjects, or showing the details of what is in front of us and what is beyond us.

 6. Rules of third – A very common component in photography composition by placing your main subject 1/3 in the scene. I usually like to use this approach when I shoot macro flower or landscape scenery containing significant isolated element that I would like to highlight.

 7. Reflection – If done well, this can create a beautiful and stunning mirror effect!

8. Shape and texture – The use of shape, line and texture can be a playful element in photography if one knows where to fine the subject and how to create it. The scale can be broad and even to macro element. This can be very challenging but if done well, can be a wonderful piece of artwork.

9. Perspective and focal point – This is usually very effective when shooting urban and architecture spaces over a series of block, building, column, archway and etc. The result can be very powerful and stunning while creates a 3 dimensional appearance especially when the light works well together with the shadow casting direction.


As a conclusion, creating great composition always takes us into another level deeper than just taking beautiful photograph. This often requires the photographer to think, create, improve, improvise and move on from one stage to another. Spending lots of time in personal reflection and always, trying something new.

Paul Chong is a landscape fine art photographer base in Shanghai, China. He is dedicated to capture the beauty of nature scenery in which he also creates colorful fine art photograph for sale in various format and sizes, featuring museum archival quality fine print. Some of his work can be seen published in magazine, website, event brochure and flyer. He owned a collection of magnificent artwork which can be seen by visiting his online gallery at www.paulchong.photoshelter.com
Copyright © 2013, Paul Chong Photography, All rights reserved. 
Email: paulchongphotography@gmail.com 
China Contact: +86 1376 4064 081 (GMT +8 hours)

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