Basic Rules for Better Photography

It’s one thing to take a picture, but another to take a photograph. There are some basic rules that can help you take more interesting and eye catching photographs.

Once you have the basic rules down, you’ll become more observant of the photographic opportunities that are around you. This is important in creating your “eye” for photography, and in creating your own style. It will be the difference between a snap shot and a photograph.

Rule of Thirds:
The “rule of thirds” has been around for centuries, and is the most recognized rule of composition used in photography and the arts alike. The rule of thirds states that the frame can be divided into three horizontal and three vertical sections. Photographs work better when the area of interest is placed off-center.

I took this photograph using the rule of thirds. The balloon is off to the left. I usually put my center of focus on the left because in most parts of the world we read from left to right. This is more appealing to the viewer’s eye. They see the center of focus to the left and continue to look toward the right, taking in the rest of the image:

The “simplicity” rule is just that. You should keep your photo relatively simple. If you’re zoomed in close to your main subject, make sure that the background is out of focus or make sure that nothing in the background stands out, causing any distractions. You don’t want anything pulling your eye away from your main subject.

Here I have a photo of a tulip’s base, a very simple composition. I came in close, and whatever background you see is blurred out — there are no distractions:

Leading Lines:
The “leading line” draws your eye deeper into the photograph, and commonly to the main subject. The leading lines also direct your eye to an area of the photo that might not have been noticed otherwise. You have to be careful using leading lines. You don’t want them to distract the viewer or lead them away from the main subject.

Here’s a photograph that I took in Death Valley, California. In this photo, there are a lot of lines leading up to the top of the mountain. The lines keep your eyes moving up the image. Lines can also go horizontal or vertical. Leading lines can also be rivers, roads, tree branches, bridges, or even building architecture:

Straight Horizon:
Talking about “straight horizons” may seem a little obvious and not necessary, but you’d be surprised to find how often it’s forgotten. Good thing this is an easy fix in most software programs:

“Framing” natural surroundings thoughtfully can add more meaning and focus to your subject. The surrounding can be just about anything, from tree branches, bushes, and even doorways. Make sure that you are focused on your main subject, and use a high f/stop for depth of field.

Here I took a photo of a golden monkey at the Bronx Zoo. I zoomed in close to get rid of any distractions behind the monkey. Then I used the tree branches to frame the image:

Sometimes a change of perspective can add impact to a photograph. Think about changing from your norm. Try crouching down, or moving to the left or right. Better yet, try to take a photo from a different angle, through a window, or a doorway, or even an archway. Experiment with lenses. You could even invest in a fisheye lens, which will give you a whole new perspective on everything:

Color in a photograph can create emotion and mood. Blues and greens are cool. Yellow and orange are warm colors. You can also use colors to create certain effects. Like a “wow” factor when colors jump out at you:

Sometimes you just have to forget about the rule of thirds, and just plop your focus dead center, just because it works. Symmetry can come at a price; some may say it’s not interesting enough or even boring. Don’t listen to that. Subjects that work well with symmetry are landscapes and flora:

The most important thing to remember about photography besides the rules, are “have fun” and enjoy what you’re doing. Then you can think about the rules. When you’ve finely tuned your skills, you can go ahead a break the rule. Now that’s a lot of fun.

37 thoughts on “Basic Rules for Better Photography”

  1. I am a amatuer photographer just starting out and I just found your website. I love it. I posted a link from my site to yours. I hope you don’t mind. Thanks for all your helpful hints!

  2. Thanks for the info. I am new at blogging and am having a tough time with my photos. This gives me food for thought.

  3. A wonderful site….

    Thanks so much for sharing your techniques.

    You have done some amazing work with that camera……. and your skill with Photoshop is truly great..

    Thanks again..


  4. wow.. 🙂 i learned a lot..
    yeah.. the most important thing is to have fun.!! ^^ nice..

  5. A wonderful site….

    Thanks so much for sharing your techniques.

    You have done some amazing work with that camera……. and your skill with Photoshop is truly great..

    Thanks again..


  6. I’m an amateur and i’m happy that i found your website. The rules are really helping. Btw, the link is my DeviantArt. I thank you if you want to see some of my pictures. Thank you so much for your help.

  7. Thank you! That was very helpful. I am in PHO 170 at the local community college. This really helped clarify the Rules of Composition for me. (My teacher didn’t explain these very well.) But now, I get it. Thanks again.

  8. The tips were very helpful and gave me a idea of how to improve my pictures. I do wish there was something on what settings to put my camera on for different types of picture.

  9. Thanks Kate. That’s a pretty good idea. I’m thinking about putting up a post about camera settings and depth of field.

  10. ,..all i can say is WOW!!! on photography. Honestly, i am not a photographer or an amateur but i dreamed to become a professional one. I’m starting to read ur blogs on photography so that I’ll learn a lot y when i can have the chance. And I’m hoping i can be one of these best photographers. (i saved my money for a Digital SLR,.hihi)
    ,..Salute to you!,.. have a nice day ma’am.. =)

  11. wow really you helped me alot in photography !!! 🙂 🙂 i really enjoyed the way u put things and pictures yo toke!!!!! after what you wrote i never want to stop photography!!!:) 🙂 <3

  12. Firstly I want to say thank you, it is really helpful and these rules will help me for better performance.

  13. it was my dream to be a photographer……. i think its not to late….I will have my new professional camera soon…I need some of your help for a starter like myself….thank u so much your site is a big help foe me….more power

  14. i got some good thing from ur descriptions..
    It’s my responsibility to thank you Lorri Freedman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Sorry, but images are protected on this site.