Photography Cheat Sheet: Basic Photography Composition Tips

If anyone has come to you for advice on how to take better photos, here’s a quick photography cheat sheet you can share with them. 

We have to start somewhere when learning a new skill or hobby, and photography is no different. Whether it’s shooting with a new camera or taking better photos with a smartphone, there are some essential basic photography rules you would need to practice. Today’s featured photography cheat sheet will help you master four composition techniques and start creating visual masterpieces.

The photography cheat sheet below, made by Canon, reminds us that taking good photos is more about how you capture than what you capture. These basic composition techniques are timeless and apply regardless of the camera you’re using at the moment. So, it’s also a perfect learning resource to share with anyone who is beginning to learn photography.

Perhaps the quintessential photography composition technique, the Rule of Thirds involves dividing your frame into thirds, or nine equal parts, using two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. Place the subject or point of interest of your scene at the points where the lines intersect. This technique works because it creates a more natural and pleasing image as compared to having your subject at the center of the frame. Check out this photography cheat sheet for more tips on the Rule of Thirds.

Adding some breathing space around your subject is another simple but effective composition technique, especially when featuring subjects in motion. Simply add an ample active space to the area your subject is facing to emphasize a sense of movement. This also tends to lead the eyes of your viewer from your subject to the direction they are facing.

When you want to place absolute emphasis on your subject, you have to simplify the background of your shot. You may also want to experiment with angles so your subject remains the focus of your photo. For plain subjects, you might want to set them against an interesting texture or an eye-catching pattern. Or, you may want to pair them with a plain background of a different color to play with subtle contrast.

Last but not least, use leading lines. You can compose your image against architectural lines and shapes created by elements like roads, walls, and power lines to lead the eyes of the viewer through your shots and draw attention to the main subject.

Additional reading: A Beginner’s Checklist for Great Photography

Want more photography tips and tricks like this? Make sure to check out our growing collection of photography cheat sheets!