10 Quick composition tips for your photography

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You have amazing ideas floating around in your head, but they just don’t seem to come on a delimited canvas, you’ve not much sense for dimensions and proportionalities, and you struggle to arrange all the components to be a concerted, aesthetic composition?

Worry not, your artistic idols are not practicing sorcery, they have distinctive patterns they’re relying on. The aesthetic has its own formulas, and here, I will introduce you to those – and you’ll notice quite fast that they’re, with a bit of practice, a breeze to adapt to your own work, without it losing its own personal touch.

Tension and harmony

First, you’ll want to figure out which one of the two basic compositing styles you’ll want to go for: Creating absolute harmony, or creating a center of agglomeration, of tension. Almost all the photographs have a detail that the viewer’s attention is automatically drawn to. But that does not exclude the possibility of, still, creating a harmonic image.

Harmony refers to distributing all the details, colors or shapes on a picture so well, that when you squint your eyes, you will not find a visual “hole” anywhere on the canvas. Your final image will be prone to express tranquility and order.

Tension refers to, on purpose, cramming a bunch of details into a certain area that can be anywhere on the canvas, and, using the center of tension as a focal point, arranging the rest of the details in the frame in a way that they form a sort of fading out, the farther away they are from the created center of attention. This sort of “Gaussian-style distribution”, creates, once again, a harmonic view that will satisfy.

There are diverse ways for you to achieve these effects on your image.

  • Create a “frame” around your main center of attention. Arrange your props evenly distributed in your frame, and if you have no props, then for example, let trees or buildings, etc., frame your main motive.
  • If you have a mostly dull-coloured photograph with very little contrast, you can create a focal point with a splotch of color.
  • Create tension by putting your center of attention in an odd place in the frame, such as the corner of the image.
  • Absolute harmony can be created by repeating a color various times in the frame.


The use of complementary colors is another way to create a harmonic composition. On the Itten’esque color wheel below, you can see which colors are complementary; they are directly opposed to each other on the color wheel. Such as red and green, orange and blue, etc.

An example would be a blue sky paired with sand dunes, or editing a bit of purple into the shadows of the photograph of a yellow summer dress, and so on and so on. Once you have realized the value of complementary contrasts in your photographs, there is basically no going back. Their use is second nature to most photographers.

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