Exerpted from Photography Wisdom - A Practical Guide To Successful Photography and Self Expression, By Wayne J. Cosshall, available in both book and app for iPad forms

Design Concepts

In composition, you have the following design concepts to work with:

In the image above the strong, dark depression in the ground on the right is balanced by the single dark tree and the the group of white trees on the left. Seeking balance in an image is an important consideration in composition.

1. Composition

Composition is a far from simple topic, yet also not impossibly difficult. The main reason it is not simple is that there are no rules to simply follow. Yes, that's what I said: no rules. There are some principles of composition, but they are not rules because often the great shot requires that you break them.

The average photographer follows the rules. The outstanding photographer knows when to break them and how to make their own up.

A snap-shooter records what they are presented with, generally with little or no thought to the arrangement of subjects within the frame, while a professional crafts the position of and relationships between the objects in the scene.

What we are looking for with composition is a successful arrangement and inter-relationship between the main elements of the image and with the shape of the image. But successful in what way? Not some rules imposed by someone else, like a judge, but rather in what you want to say with the image. Everything that is in the image should contribute to this message and their placements within the frame and with respect to each other should all serve to enhance your vision.

See the design principles on the right.

Furthermore, there are ideas about the placement of key elements in the image, such as the Rule of Thirds, static vs. dynamic arrangements, the Golden Section and more that can all be worked with.

A common thing we hear is that you should not put your main subject in the centre of the image. This is often good advice and placement on one of the one-third intersections works better much of the time. But there are times when a central placement is perfect. How can you tell when? By trying various subject placements and learning which ones work for you and in what situations. Then when you are shooting you listen to your intuition, which has been informed and trained by the prior practice.

There are also situations where the image works best if the main subject or subjects are put almost on the edge of the frame, moving them even further from the centre. This can be the case when you need to create a strong sense of space or sparse- ness in the image. Sometimes it is also best to substantially crop the main subject.

The rule of thirds divides the image up into thirds and recommends object placement on these divisions. Some cameras can project such a grid on the screen or in the viewfinder. While not universally appropriate, it has the benefit of being easy to visualise and use. It also often creates a pleasant arrangement.

Here we see an image where multiple elements come together to lead the viewer's eye deep into the background. The red curved rail with the line of the bridge serves to move you to the tower middle left, while the shadow of the bridge in the water does the same, making for a very strong pull. The red lamp top serves as a nice balance to this tower as well.