Subject Placement Tips in Photography

This should be one of the most obvious things in an image yet many people have absolutely no idea as to where it should go. Most people take their subject and place it slap bang in the middle thinking that is the right place to go. How wrong can you get? This article will help you place your subject properly.

tips for photo subject placement

Photo by Yoko Ryo; ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/250-second exposure.

Early in my career as a photographer I only had one place for a subject, in the middle of the image. And, my images never seemed to contain that dynamic punch. The photo books and travel magazines all looked great but my photos were just average. Then I discovered that there were some rules and by implementing them and my images came alive.

1. Going for the center

Despite what I have said in my intro about centrally placed subjects, there is a place for it in photography, just that it works in limited ways. Subjects like people portraits can work well with a central subject. Other subjects or objects like buildings that are symmetrical work well as do cars taken from the front and subjects cropped tightly. Be careful though that you use central placement in a limited way in your photo taking.

2. Off-centered

If your want to place a subject in the middle of an image try to off center it just a little so that it’s not right in the middle. This will help make a more pleasant image.

3. The rule of thirds

You may or may not have heard about this rule discovered by the early Greeks and used for centuries in art and painting. Knowing the rules and where to place a subject allows you to break the rules if it works towards creating a better or more dynamic image. So back to the rule of thirds or two thirds rule as it is also known. Imagine an image with a tic-tac-toe or noughts and crosses grid superimposed on it. Two horizontal lines and two vertical lines dividing the scene into thirds. Where these lines intersect are your key points. It’s on these points that you can place your subject to the best effect.

photography subject placement tips

Photo by Ronnie Fleming; ISO 50, f/16.0, 1/125-second exposure.

Take a look for yourself at a photo or travel magazine and see how many of the images use this rule. But, not only do these points help create a great image but the vertical or horizontal lines do the same. If you have a tall object or a person standing up then place it or them on one of the two vertical lines. The same goes for a landscape image with a horizon. The horizon should always lie on one of the horizontal lines and not in the middle, creating a striking landscape photo.

By placing your subject according to the two thirds rule the image becomes more balanced and pleasing to the eye. You can add another focal point to the image but it should never compete with the main subject so it has to be smaller and not dominate the photo. Placement of a subject is key to every image so experiment and practice using these tips on placing your subject as you learn digital photography. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video. He is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever