Westways Updates

5 rules for great photo composition

A great business needs a great website. And there are elements of that great website you can't do without: easy navigation, effective technical features and all the right information.

But we didn't mention the one thing that really is crucial: stunning visuals.

Colours, layout and fonts are one thing, but people love to see things in action. We're talking photography. And the best websites will rarely skimp in this area.

So what makes a great photo?

When you look at a great photo, there's just something about it. It looks right. It's stunning. On the other hand, quite often a good camera has been used and the backdrop and subject material are also great - but that photo just doesn't look right.

That's because photography isn't just pointing at something nice and 'taking the shot'. Like beautiful music, a great photo has been composed. So let's take a look at 5 indispensible composition rules that the great photographer has used to take that great shot.

1. The rule of thirds

Most photographers will tell you that the 'rule of thirds' is among the first things they ever learned.

That's because non-photographers are always tempted to centre whatever they are taking a shot of. But great photography is not about centring - it's about balance. So the photographer will split his 'photo' frame into a 3 x 3 grid, and put the subject where the grid lines cross.

If you follow this rule, your photos will almost always look more compelling.

2. The golden ratio

Similar to the rule of thirds, the golden ratio is an even more mathematical way to think about your photo. Without getting too technical, this ratio is about 1 to 1.6, and it's based on something that is found throughout nature.

Similar to the rule of thirds, the horizon is used as a guide and the subject is positioned at the 1.6 point, perfectly balancing the empty (1.6 part) and filled (1 part) space.

3. Gestalt principles

Based on what German and Austrian psychologists called Gestalt, the basic premise is that humans perceive things as a whole rather than their constituent parts.

Applied to photography, it means the subject and the surroundings need to be considered together - because that is how the shot will be perceived. The space around them defines the photo, and vice versa.

4. Leading lines

The photo may appear rectangular, but your eyes are normally drawn through a path. Normally, it's from the top left of the frame through the centre, but a well-composed photo will have a clearly defined path - such as a road, the branches of a tree, a queue of people, or a beach.

Leading lines give the shot a sense of motion, making them dynamic and energetic alive rather than static and dull.

5. Foreground vs background

The other way to capture the full, real-life '3D' reality of what you're taking the shot of to your static, 2D photo is to equally consider the foreground, the background and how they complement the subject.

A well composed photo will have a foreground and background that create relative space, give balance and proportion, and create depth for example by 'blurring' things that are closer or further to the camera than the subject.

Of course, not every photo requires every single rule, and other photos require considerations not even listed here. But most great photos will have elements of at least one or two of these 5 rules, helping to turn what you are trying to capture into something truly compelling, and in turn, creating a website with truly beautiful visuals.