This is a guest post, by an awesome photographer, Christal Collette of Collette Photography. She decided to tackle one of the subjects I pay attention to when I take pictures, but I get bogged down when I try to explain it. So thank you for helping me through this, Christal!  She can be found all over the web:


Twitter: @CollettePhoto

Instagram: @CollettePhoto


Composition is a pretty general term. For this tutorial we’re going to focus on a few fun aspects of composition – and the quick tips to incorporating them into your photography skillset. Let’s get started.

1.       The Golden Ratio

These tips are in no particular order, although the Golden Ratio is a very key element to most photography. While the mathematical definition is pretty dense – generally speaking, the Golden Ratio indicates that there will always be a large and small section of the image. The Golden Ratio may also look similar to a spiral (see fig. 1) although almost all elements of design fall under the ratio of 2:1. For example: the painting of the Mona Lisa starts small at the head (1) and slowly fills the space of the canvas with her body (2). The Mona Lisa would be considered a 1:2 ratio (see fig. 2).

Fig. 1 Source.



Fig. 2 Source.

Snap back to the 21st century and I give you my version of the Golden Ratio.

Here I used the dock as my 1 and the lake as my 2. The boat and water add an extra element of movement which is also great for compositions sake. You will see that there is a 2nd golden ratio between the sun and the mountains/water. You can have multiple ratios in your photo.

2.       Bird’s Eye View

This one is very simple. Shoot from above the image. This photo was taken off of a walkway about two stories above the sidewalk below. This stranger rode through at the perfect moment. Oh and here’s a fun tidbit – this photo was taken with an iPhone 4S.

Remember, with the right composition and lighting almost any camera will work for you. You don’t need a fancy DSLR to create fascinating works of art.


3.       Leading Lines

I LOVE leading lines. I have so much fun finding these in my photographs. Basically the concept is to find lines that go in the same direction and create movement. They ‘lead’ your eye to a specific focal point. This is a bridge over the Otter Creek in Middlebury, VT. It’s part of the Marble Works district.

As you can see, the leading lines go both vertically on the railing and horizontally on the wooden boards of the walkway.


4.       Depth of Field and Leading Lines

To play with leading lines a little more I’d like to introduce a photo which incorporates leading lines AND depth of field. Depth of field is essentially putting one section of the photo into focus. You can focus on the closest object to your lens, or the farthest. I typically use autofocus on my Nikon DSLR. If you’re into manually focusing then simply point towards the object you would like to focus on, set your focus, and zoom out as desired.


5.       Structure and Color

If you’re more of an artistic photographer you may enjoy photographing buildings and other types of architecture. The balcony is this photo is actually where I photographed the earlier Birds Eye View photograph. In this photo you can see that I also played with elements of color. The palette of salmon, charcoal and tan mix well together alongside the leading lines of the stairs. Can you find the Golden Ratio as well?

6.       Color Pop

Another fun thing to do with color is to pull one color into a black and white photo. This pops the colorful element and is a fun and different way to showcase specific elements of the photo. I chose to focus on the color green and paired the grass with the frog on the infant’s jumper.

7.       The Rule of Thirds

Alongside the Golden Ratio is an easier composition understanding – the Rule of Thirds. This rule helps you to use the Golden Ratio but in a much simpler way. Put your focal point into 1/3rd of the image. The photo below is also a great use of white space (meaning there is a large portion of the image with nothing showing).

8.       Focus on the Eyes

There is one way to ensure that most of your photos of humans and animals will turn out correctly, if not superbly. Focus on the eyes. The eyes tell a story, they convey the emotion in the photograph when taking photos of humans, and yes … even animals! For this example we’ll use a human. The intent of this photograph is to be professional, for an author. Her eyes tell a story. What is she saying?

9.       Coordinate Color and Pattern

I’ve been lucky to have photographed families who like to coordinate their fashion. Don’t be afraid of patterns in clothing. Mix it up! This is also another good example photo of focusing on the eyes.


10.   Break all the rules!

Okay, perhaps this photo follows some of the rules, but it breaks others. The space is almost filled, leaving little Golden Ratio. The focal point isn’t too specific either. Items are in and out of focus. BUT … it’s still a great photo! The focus on the eyes breaks apart all the other necessary rules … and, well, it’s just fun. Chances are if the photo feels good to you visually then it probably is. Don’t get too hung up on rules.

Which element will you try today? Come show some of your take on these rules on Charm Box’s Facebook Fan Page!

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