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Photography insight: Mastering the art of composition

Mastering the art of composition can transform ordinary scenes into extraordinary visual narratives. It's about understanding how different techniques and perspectives can influence your images' narrative and emotional impact–and when to break the rules!


Travelling and photography go hand in hand. Most of us use our smartphones when photographing, and the image quality is, most times, plenty good. But understanding the basics of photography, whether you use your smartphone or a DSLR or mirrorless system camera, will enhance your chances of documenting your travel in a wow-factor way. daGamas School of Photography for Travellers gives you input on how to become a better travel-photographer.


When photographing, your choice of lens profoundly influences the final image. Wide-angle lenses emphasize grandeur and capture vast scenes, while telephoto lenses compress perspective, highlighting intricate details and patterns. In our tutorial XXXXXXXX you can read more about lenses and how they affect the image.

The rules of thirds

Let us start with the foundation of composition; the rules of thirds. We, humans, like order. Our eyes like to look at structured elements. The rule of thirds will help you structure the images and help the viewer read the images easier.

The rules of thirds divide your frame into a 3x3 grid. In many cameras, turning on a helping grid to accomplish a good composition is possible. The grid will only be visible on your screen or viewfinder and will not transfer to the images. See your manual for how to turn on the grid or Rules of thirds. (Different camera-manufactures may call this grid differently).

Placing key elements along the lines or where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect will add balance and visual interest and guides the viewer's eye through the image.

Breaking the Rule: Embracing Creative Freedom

While the rule of thirds is a valuable guideline, breaking it can lead to compelling and unconventional compositions. Placing subjects dead centre or near the edges, experimenting with negative space, or intentionally disrupting balance can evoke emotions and intrigue viewers. So don't be a slave of the rules of thirds. Go out and experiment!

Composing for portraits:

Adjust your perspective to the person's eye level you are making the portrait when photographing people. Use leading lines or natural surroundings to frame your subjects. Be aware of any objects in the background that may s"stick" out of the person's head, like tree branches, flagpoles, street signs, etc. To isolate the person against the background, use a small telephoto lens with a large aperture to blur out the background. (In our other lessons in deGamas School of Photography for Travellers, you can learn more about lens choice or aperture)

Capturing Landscapes

To compose breathtaking landscapes, employ techniques such as leading lines, foreground interest, and the rule of thirds. Utilize natural elements, such as rivers or roads, to guide the viewer's gaze towards the focal point and evoke a sense of depth.

Conveying Size

To capture the size of an object, consider your perspective and surroundings. Positioning a person or recognizable element nearby can provide a sense of scale, highlighting the object's grandeur or diminutiveness.

Composing in Crowded Environments

When photographing in crowded spaces, ensure your subject stands out. Employ techniques like isolating them using depth of field or leading lines, or experiment with low angles to create a unique perspective that draws attention to your subject amidst the hustle and bustle.

You will captivate viewers and leave a lasting impression with practice and a keen eye.


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