Tips for Taking Your Photography Composition to the Next Level

What is the most important thing for storytelling with your photography? Composition! This video from Mango Street is a quick refresher on the most important aspects of composition:

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds divides the entire frame into nine equal rectangles like a tic-tac-toe board. These are created using two sets of intersecting lines that meet at four points—the thirds.

rule of thirds

The rule of thirds suggests that you place the most important aspects of your photo on one of these intersections.

Head Room and Looking Room

But good composition goes beyond just placing your subjects according to the rule of thirds.

head room, looking room

You’ll also want to leave head room around the head of your subject as well as looking room, which is more space between the subject and the edge of the frame that they are looking at, rather than the back of their head and the opposite edge.


Make sure you don’t cut your subjects off at a joint, such as near the wrists or the elbow.

careful where you crop

This creates a weird visual jerk.



Framing is a great way to box in your subjects. Framing also helps to create some interest.

Leading Lines

leading lines

Leading lines guide your audience toward the subject of your photos. So, if you have lines in your frame, make sure that they’re working for you and not against you. Even light can be used for this purpose. If your frame has a streak of light, use that to highlight your subject.


Perspective can make or break a photo.


Shooting straight on, for example, can produce a completely different aspect than shooting from the top or shooting upward.

Breaking the Rules of Composition

Composition rules exist for a purpose, and that purpose is to give your photos balance. Having said that, knowing these rules gives you the confidence to break them when you must.

Breaking the rules of composition gives your photos increased interest and tension.

breaking the rules of composition

There are a million different ways you can break these rules and then add that extra bit of oomph that standard techniques of composition don’t provide.

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