Photography Composition Articles


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Guidelines for Better Photographic Composition: Simplicity

The first and perhaps the most important guideline is simplicity. Look for ways to give the center of interest in your pictures the most visual attention. One way is to select uncomplicated backgrounds that will not steal attention from your subjects.


Let's see how we can improve this photo by looking for visual simplicity. First let's decide if we want our center of interest to be the public telephone, the bridge, or the cactus.

2 Cacti

We chose the cactus as the main subject. And by moving in closer and using the plain sky as the background, we have simplified and improved the appearance of this photograph.

Gulls comparison

We're certainly close enough to our subject in both pictures, but the busy background on the left camouflages the seagull. Just change your point of view slightly and, presto, your seagull stands with visual prominence against the blue sky.

Comparison-2 Views of Spanish mission

Compose your photograph so that your reason for taking the picture is clearly seen. Arrange other parts of the picture area in such a way as to complement what you choose to be the center of interest. Most of us would prefer the picture on the right because the parking lot tends to contradict the feeling of antiquity related to this mission.

Couple sitting on step

Remember: we're talking about composition simplicity, and here's another decision you'll probably have to make. How much of your subject should you include, and should it be framed horizontally as we have done here?

Couple sitting on step-framed

Or perhaps you'd prefer to frame your subject in the vertical format, as we've indicated with these frame lines. The choice is yours.

Boy drawing on walk

So, you can simplify your pictures and strengthen your center of interest by selecting uncomplicated backgrounds, avoiding unrelated subjects, and moving in close. If you want to make your center of interest even more dynamic, place it slightly off center in your frame as we have done with this young artist.

Gull on beach

Generally, pictures with subjects directly in the center tend to be more static and less interesting than pictures with off-center subject placement.


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