What Are the Rules of Photography?


Quick Answer

Fundamental rules for photograph composition involve the rule of thirds, the placement of the horizon line, the concept of leading lines, the need to fill the frame and the distinction between foreground and background. Whether shooting photos on film or digitally, following basic composition rules creates more compelling photographs.

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Full Answer

The rule of thirds calls for every photo to be divided into thirds in one's imagination, both vertically and horizontally. The most important elements of the photo should fall on those lines. Using the rule of thirds allows the photographer to take a photograph that is visually balanced.

Photographs that include a horizon line are more visually dramatic if the horizon falls above or below the horizontal center of the photo. The only exception to this occurs when the photo includes a reflection.

The eye is naturally drawn to lines that occur in a photo. Knowing this, the photographer can frame photos to let roads, telephone poles, wires, fences or stairways direct the viewer's eye through the photograph.

Weak photos often include too much empty space in the frame, leaving viewers not knowing where to focus and unable to see any small items appearing within the frame. A basic rule of photography calls for the photographer to fill the frame to reduce clutter and make the subject of the photo larger.

Paying attention to the background of photos is another fundamental rule of photography. If shooting with a camera that cannot control depth of field, this principle is even more important. Overly busy or textured backgrounds often detract from the photo's foreground and sometimes lead to unintentional humor or silliness.

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