Compose Your Photos For Impact

How you compose an image controls how much impact it will have on the people viewing it. Below are some tips and techniques you can use to maximize the impact of your digital photos.

Use the Golden Grid (the “Rule of Thirds”)

The rule of thirds, or the Golden Grid, was used by ancient Greek painters. According to the rule, divide your viewfinder into thirds both horizontally and vertically. If your subject is static, place it on one of the intersecting points. If your subject is horizontal, then place it on a horizontal line. Place vertical subjects on a vertical line. If you incorporate just this rule into your digital photos, your photography will greatly improve.

Additional variables that can create impact in your images include: framing, depth, focus, viewpoint, and color.


Framing is used to draw your viewer’s eyes into the digital photo – and right to your subject. Once you start to look for items to use as framing, you’ll start to see them all around. Items can be natural or man-made. Tree branches and limbs, doorways and windows are all popular. When first using framing, many make the mistake of placing their subject too far away from the frame. In doing so, the subject appears too small, thereby getting lost inside the frame.


The illusion of depth occurs when there is noticeable distance between the foreground, background and your subject in between. Digital images with depth tend to draw viewers into them. The illusion occurs when two items of the same approximate size appear to be different in size. The eye interprets the small one being farther away. Atmospheric haze can contribute to the illusion by making the smaller item appear lighter in color.


Because objects in focus attract the eye, you can improve a photo by selectively using focus to direct the viewer’s eye to the photo’s subject. You’re using selective focus when everything in the image other than your subject is slightly out-of-focus. You can achieve this effect by using f/4 or another small f-stop setting and positioning your subject nearer to your camera than the background. You can make sure your subject is inside the small plane of focus by focusing on your subject. Objects will appear increasingly more out-of-focus as you move away from the plane of focus (and, accordingly, your subject). This explains why having some distance between the subject of your image and the background is so important.


Your camera will be in one location and your subject in another. The relationship between those two positions is known as the “viewpoint.” Before you take any photos, look around you for some different potential viewpoints. You might be able to position your camera at a horizontal angle to your subject, or perhaps higher or lower than your subject. Different viewpoints will alter the way your subject looks in your camera’s viewfinder. Finding the right one frequently requires only a minor change in your camera’s position.

The next time you’re shooting photos with your digital camera, try some of these image composition tips and techniques. Once you become aware of the elements of composition, your photos will improve and have more impact.

For professional photos that capture the emotion and personality of your child, visit Melanie Acker Photography at St Louis Baby Photography Melanie uses natural light and the beautiful seasons of the midwest as a backdrop. You can see some of her work at

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