A good subject does not necessarily mean a good photo; photographers have an arsenal of compositional techniques which can be employed in order to make the most of a photo opportunity. In the following article, I will identify compositional techniques used by the winners of this year’s Int’l Photography Awards.

Rule of Thirds

Mongolia - Nick Hall - 2015

‘Mongolia’ – Nick Hall

The Rule of Thirds divides a photograph into nine equal segments, separated by two horizontal and two vertical lines. By placing important elements along these lines – the Nomad and the horizon – the scene is given balance.

Mongolia - Nick Hall - 2015(3rds)

Balancing Elements

'Evasion' - Saurabh Dua - 2015

‘Evasion’ – Saurabh Dua

In this photograph, the dancer has been intentionally placed off-centre to create a more interesting scene. To counter the visual weight of the dancer, a tree has been used as a Balancing Element.

Leading Lines

'Turboweekend - Fault Lines' - Morten Rygaard - 2015

‘Fault Lines’ – Morten Rygaard

The debris in this image forms a tangible Leading Line that draws the viewer’s eye through the scene and past the subjects.

Depth of Field

'A Bright Future' - David Burdeny - 2015

‘A Bright Future’ – David Burdeny

The arches in this image vary in distance from the camera; they are of equal size but appear smaller as the background is approached. Each arch partially obscures the next, giving the impression of layering. Using these compositional techniques, a two-dimensional photograph can be given a sense of Depth.

Symmetry and Patterns

‘Clovis Rodeo Finale’ - Jim Krantz - 2015

‘Clovis Rodeo Finale’ – Jim Krantz

A photograph can highlight patterns and symmetry that may go unnoticed in everyday life, thereby creating a striking composition. By braking the symmetry in this image, the viewer’s eye is drawn to the motorcyclist.


‘Fresh Faces’ - Emily Dryden - 2015

‘Fresh Faces’ – Emily Dryden

By contrasting the subject with its background, a photograph is given more impact. The brightly coloured assembly in this photograph has been placed on a plain, black background, ensuring that the viewer can focus on the subject without distraction.


‘Crystal Passage’ - Ian Ely - 2015

‘Crystal Passage’ – Ian Ely

Framing is used to isolate the focal element of a scene, thereby drawing the viewer’s attention. In this photograph, the glacial faces provide a natural frame for the distant landscape.

Golden Triangle

'Xanadu' - Kuo Hsing Lai

‘Xanadu’ – Kuo Hsing Lai

By placing a diagonal line between two opposite corners and a second line that meets it at a right angle, The Golden Triangle splits the photograph into three right-angled triangles. As in the photograph, lines do not have to be precise and an approximated use of the Golden Triangle will still result in composition that is pleasing to the eye.

'Xanadu' - Kuo Hsing Lai GT

Images courtesy of IPA – Int’l Photography Awards


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