Composition: Getting Creative

By Geoff Harris

Leaning the art of Composition, more than anything else will make a huge difference to your photography. What to leave in and what to take out, what your focal point is and how you frame your image, could be the difference between and ordinary image or an extraordinary picture.

Composition isn't complicated, and the skills are easy to learn with a few basic rules of thumb, you will soon start taking creative, imaginative and well composed photos.

The view of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north bay showing the Lilburn Tower and Greymare rocks, Northumberland, England

The Building Blocks to Creative Photography

To see your Photography not just as picture, but as a series of lines and shapes will mean you well on your way to considering the composition, rather than just a snap shot. You can use line within and image, to guide the viewer to your focal point, or take them on a journey through the photograph.


Take this shot of a river and mountain for example. The river leads the viewer in from the bottom right to the centre of the picture then turns to point towards the mountain.

The line is picked up in the V-shape of the lower slope which points us out over the summit of the mountain to the top right hand corner.

There doesn’t have to be any physical lines in the image like roads or fences.They can be implied by the physical arrangement of elements within the scene.

The river draws you into the picture while the sunlight entering from the left and the trees and hillside softly illuminated helps to give the picture life.

Cover the river with your hand and the image loses all its impact




Understanding Line & Shape

Lines and shapes have a dramatic effect on your emotional response to photography. Vertical lines add power and impact to a composition while horizontal line an air of calm. Diagonal lines are dynamic and are particularly appropriate for action or moving shots

14539218_l Pattern 1 large


Seeing PatternPattern 1Shape 2

Lines and shapes have a dramatic effect on your emotional response to a picture.

Vertical lines add power and impact to a composition while horizontal line an air of calm.

Diagonal lines are dynamic and are particularly appropriate for action or moving shots






Epitomises the use of



Symmetry or Asymmetry?
A great way to train your eye is to always try and shoot images both symmetrically and asymmetrically then see which you prefer best.

Symmetrical images are those that that can be divided equally in half either length ways, across the centre, or even corner to corner, but whichever way you choose, they should always be balance

Asymmetrical images have no such line of divide.

It not always possible to shoot all subjects this way, but look around you and you will see plenty of creative opportunities.















Although this bridge isn’t exactly symmetrical you can still draw a line down the middle and still seems to balance on each half




Changing the camera to a landscape format and taking the same shot with a wider angle of view completely changes the feel of the image.




Horizontal or Vertical?

Shoot in both Portrait and Landscape Composition-1-13
Format to maximise compositional possibilities
Photographing the same scene in both portrait and landscape formats will increase your chances of finding the best composition.

Deciding which format will suite a particular images may not always be that obvious.

So getting use to turning you camera from horizontal to vertical will help train your eye.












It’s all too easy to put you camera on the tripod and fire off a whole load of shots in the horizontal format.

But by taking shots in both portrait and landscape format you will sometime find some surprising images which work much better if one orientation than the other.





Deciding on a horizontal or vertical photography format could be a matter of a split second decision before the opportunity passes you by.

Being able to react instinctively could be the difference between a lost opportunity and a creative, prize winning image.

As a general rule tall subjects are made to be taking in portrait mode.

Here the pine trees look lovely with their green foliage topping the image, but surprisingly, the landscape image of the trunks looks equally good, even though it doesn’t follow the rules.






Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

Stay updated

Receive free updates by email including special offers and new courses.

You can unsubscribe at any time


Related posts

Our best selling courses

Awards & Accreditations

  • Good Web Guide
  • Red Herring Winner
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Education Investor Awards 2021 - Finalist
  • CPD Accredited (provider 50276)