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Elements of Composition | Day 21

At the risk of sounding repetitive, elements of composition are merely tools. Using them will neither guarantee you have a compelling photo nor promise you the results you want. They are tools in your ever-expanding belt of photo “trade secrets” to help push you to think outside the box. This list of 9 is far from comprehensive – as composition is bound only by your creativity. As artists, no one has ever been done learning about the art of photography. We cannot teach creativity, we can only encourage each other in our pursuit of it.

I hope the following guidelines will help you be intentional about how you compose your photo.

1. Filling Your Frame

fill frame

2. Simple Backgrounds

simple backgrounds

3. Rule of Thirds – place points of focus at thirds rather than center, center on the x- and y-axis.

rule of thirds - composition guidelines photography

4. Patterns – repetition of lines or elements

repetition pattern

5. Depth of Field – use focus to draw the eye to your subject

flamingo - shallow depth of field

6. Framing of your subject – using elements in the photo to make a natural frame


7. Lines – using horizontals, verticals or diagonals to emphasize your subject


8. Use of Negative Space (“White Space”) – open space brings the eye where you want it

negative space

9. Symmetry – use mirrored or repetitive geometry to create balance


Since I cannot beat a dead horse anymore – tomorrow we move on to post production and photo editing. Get that Photoshop program ready – this is one of my favorite parts!


  1. Love it! Your shots were all perfect for each point! Again, great job 🙂

  2. I just wanted to stop over and thank you for your work this month…you’ve done such a great job of explaining both the technical side as well as the creative side of photography. I’d really struggle if it was all technical because I’m much more creative. Thanks again! You rock!

  3. I love these pictures. Beautiful!

  4. This was very helpful. Thank you!

    By the way, this post is missing a number 7.

  5. I was thinking the other day- are you going to touch on the diopter at all? or metering? those are 2 things I still dont get… but I am SO loving this series! I was *this* close to buying (another) book this week about beginning photography… then I started reading more excerpts and checking out the pages they had up for examples of the book- and I realized, everything in there was covered in your series. And you have explained things FAR better than any of the other books I have read. I GET it now. I really do. Although Im not 100% fabulous at shooting manual, I am FAR better than I was and understand MUCH more about getting the picture I want (more bokeh, faster shutter for the maniac boys, whatever…). I am loving it. I can not thank you enough for taking so much of your time to do this for us.

    • Hey Megan,

      By request, I’m considering continuing this series throughout the year… and hopefully the tutorials will get better as I get more masterful, too! Not with such intensity as daily posts – cause I’m tellin’ ya – even I am sick of me right now.

      What about doing something like Tutorial Fridays – or Photo tip Fridays or something like that? Maybe a couple times a month? Then I could take specific reader-requested topics and make a day of it.

      There are soooo many things – little details – that 31 Days can’t cover it all.

      I’ve had a lot of requests about metering beyond the post I did on in-camera metering. I think I’ll be more motivated to talk about it when temps here are frigid and I don’t want to shoot outside in snow up to my belly. Right now, with gorgeous fall temps, beautiful warm light – the last thing on my mind is metering. But in a couple weeks when I become Mama Bear and lock myself away until Spring, revisiting my studio lighting will be a lot more appealing! 😉

  6. Woo hoo! Looking forward to learning to use Photoshop. You know, my work laptop came with full strength Photoshop. And no, I don’t work in graphic design. I don’t really understand it. It’s just an unexpected gift.

  7. Wow, love the pictures, esp the one about focusing on the x/y axis and leaving the subject in 1/3 of the frame. I’m going to try this…an amateur photographer but got a new camera and will love trying out these new aspects! Glad to have stumbled upon your blog! 🙂

  8. The rule of thirds and the use of negative space are both compositions that I’m not strong in. Sometimes I get caught up in making sure the picture is straight that composition goes out he window. However, the more comfortable I get with my camera, the more I’m beginning to play with composition….it’s so much fun!

    By the way, I wanted to let you know that I’ll probably be referencing this series for a long time to come. I’ve found it to be informative and “approachable”…I was concerned that I would feel out of my depth, but that hasn’t been the case at all! Great job, Darcy!

  9. love picture #6 since I live in Chicago 🙂 Also love the words you chose around teaching creativity!

  10. just found your blog LOVE IT!
    Thank you!

  11. I do really well with scenery shots, people shots, still life (even won an award on one of my still lifes!) but am having great trouble with indoor shots for my decorating business! UGH! I used to use a rather expensive SLR with several different lens, filters and flash. Also my first experiences with a digital (I was taking aerial photos of ground shots) were great! But I can’t afford that level of digital just yet…. {sigh}

    I’ve tried to adjust the “level/angle” from which I’m taking the photos, getting lower down like the magazine/catalog photos show; trying to shoot more vignettes and not worrying about getting the entire room in the shot, etc. A lot of basics really….but…. Without better additional lighting, I’m stuck!

    I can’t always go back to the client’s house to photograph when the light’s better. And worse, some of the rooms have no windows anyway. Suggestions from anyone?


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