When we first look at an object, our eyes tend to follow some simple rules. For example, we all have a tendency to view the brightest part of an object first. It could be the color, brightness, or even the shape of the image that commands our attention.  Next, our eyes may search for the clearest elements of the image before we start to react to what we are viewing. By using some basic rules of photographic competition, we can help to direct the action of the human eye and make what others see in our photography more pleasing.

In every photo, a number of elements are present, so how we place them in the photo affects how we react to the photo when viewed.  The main element, of course, is the subject, and, of course, you have a background as well.  Subject and background give your photo a two dimensional look. Why not take it to the next level and make it a three-dimensional image by adding a foreground?

So you pick up your camera, put your grandchild right in the middle of the frame, snap the photo, and there you go…subject is the child and background is the wall behind him. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?  Let’s see if we can apply a couple of photo rules to make this image more interesting…

Rule Number One:  The Rule of Thirds.  Some cameras have a built-in graph that you can activate through the menu.  To see an example, draw a graph that looks like a tic-tac-toe board. I have included one as an example. The main rule is to keep your subject from falling into the holes. Try and keep your subject in the area where the lines cross or in a third part of the viewfinder.  When shooting sunsets, for instance, I like to keep the horizon line on the bottom or the top third of the image and away from dead center. Of course, all rules are there to be broken, and that’s why we should come out of the box once in a while. This simple rule may make your next image much more interesting.

Using Guides

Rule Number Two (actually it is Rule Two and Three):  Leading Lines and Framing.  Leading lines are just what it says…the next time you are setting up an image, try and look for something in front of the subject that can lead your eye to the subject. Now, you are adding depth to your photo.  Very cool!  By using the framing rule, you can use an item around you to frame your subject and direct the viewer’s eye right to that very important grandchild.  These two composition rules add that third dimension to your images.  Of course, every time you pick up a camera, you can’t always put these simple rules to work.  As you do use them more and more, you will start to be more aware of how your photography is changing and how others view your images.

Leading Lines

So when you are ready to use the rule of thirds with your point-and-shoot camera, you should first put the focus point on your subject, then by still holding down the focus button, go ahead and compose your image. Now move the image to the location that looks best using the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing.  Just because the focus point happens to be in the middle of your viewfinder, that does not mean all of your images have to be taken with the subject in the middle as well.

Have fun, and keep shooting!