Elements That Make a Striking Photograph

What does it take to create a really stunning image? There are six basic elements and certain factors that influence composition and make a really great image. If you can understand these and learn to apply them successfully, then you’re on your way to top photos.

Now although there are all of these elements to consider, you still need to understand that a really stunning image is composed in the simplest way. So with these factors in mind, use your photographic eye to create images that have them present. Let’s take a look at the elements.

1. Shape

Shape is fundamental to your images. Without shape you cannot identify your subjects. If you are unable to identify the shape of a lion under a tree when hiking through a reserve then you are in trouble. Shape is what the viewer sees first and allows them to relate all of the elements in the image.

2. Line

This is the strongest of all the elements and comes into play very often. If you can use strong lines in your images they will be striking. Learning to use lines is essential if you are to progress in your photography. As you learn digital photography use them often. From horizontals to diagonals and from verticals to converging, all of these will strengthen your images.

using lines in photography composition

photo by Tuncay

3. Form

Now shape is two dimensional but when we get to form we add a third dimension, depth. Form is very dependent on light. How the light hits the form creates the feeling of depth which is essential in a stunning image. Squares, circles and triangles reveal their form when strong side lighting hits them. The contrast between shadows and light turns shape into form.

4. Patterns

Patterns to me are exciting. Finding patterns where you least expect them adds a new dimension to your images. Repeated patterns and broken patterns both reveal interesting aspects in a photo. Patterns can be used as the subject or as a background to an image. The careful use of these patterns will always help in creating a really great image. Patterns can be found everywhere and by identifying them will add interest to the overall image. Use them to your advantage.


photo by Simon Schlegl

5. Color

Use color to your advantage as well. Color is the most striking of the elements when used correctly. Contrasting and complementary colors will create an amazing image but used incorrectly will wash out an otherwise great photo. Color evokes deep emotion. We think in color and feel in color and use color to describe those feelings. Red gives a feeling of passion while orange shows warmth. Black denotes anger and fear while green represents growth and peace. If you can add color to an image that already has elements that evoke the emotion, the final image will be exceptional.

6. Texture

Out of all the elements I think that texture evokes the biggest emotional response by a viewer. The challenge here is to photograph it in such a way that the light causes the texture to reveal itself in a way as to create a feeling. Side lighting is important as it lifts the texture out of the image so as to almost create the actual texture for you to feel. More than any other element, it is important to get in close so that the fibers, cracks, or rough stone are clearly visible.


photo by eiji ienaga

These elements of design can all make that outstanding image when used by themselves or when combined. By regularly looking for them and applying them in your images you will learn just how much they help to create great photos. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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