7 Basic Photography Rules


Photography is less about what you’re shooting and more about how you’re shooting. Truth be told, it doesn’t even matter what camera you’re using. Whether you use a camera phone, a point and shoot, or a DSLR, a good photographer knows the basic rules of composition and when to use them. Great photographers know when to break the rules to create unique and interesting photographs. Today we break down 7 basic photography rules.

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1. Rule of Thirds

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One of the most common mistakes for new photographers is to place your subject in the dead center of the frame. Regardless of how cute your child is, if done repeatedly,you’ll be left with a lot of static and boring images. The best way to overcome this mistake is to apply the Rule of Thirds. Imagine that your shot is divided into nine equal rectangles. Place your subject at any of the four points where the rectangles join. Simply put, adjust your shot so that your subject is slightly off-center. By applying this rule, you’ll almost immediately add balance and interest to your photos. But we have to warn you. The average person doesn’t always appreciate the rule of thirds, so be prepared for your mother or grandmother to ask why the photo is off-center.

2. Simplify

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Before shooting, declutter your background to capture simple and beautiful images where the focus stays with your subject. While you can always remove tree limbs, toys and other distractions from your photos in post-processing, it’s much easier to remove them or avoid them before ever taking a photo. This doesn’t mean that you need to limit yourself to plain backdrops. Textures, patterns, gardens and other “busy” backgrounds can create beautiful bokeh (the blurred effect you see in a lot of professional images) as long as you are using a large aperture (f/4 or lower).

Product Recommendation

Are you a budding photographer with a DSLR camera looking for a great starter lens that will give you some pretty bokeh? Check out this 50mm/1.8 lens for Canon or Nikon (also labeled the “nifty fifty”). If you’d like to upgrade for a better quality, we adore the 50mm/1.4 lens.

3. Fill the Frame

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Sometimes, leaving too much empty space within a photo can make your main character appear smaller than you’d like. Of course, this can come in handy if you’re trying to capture how small your little one is next to a particular person or thing. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to zoom in close on your subject or “fill the frame.” 

4. Framing

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As you’re shooting, look for natural ways to frame your main subject. Tree branches, buildings, fences and people all make wonderful frames. Get creative and even use frames within frames to add visual interest to your photos.

5. Leading Lines

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You can use lines in your photos to draw people’s eye towards the main subject of your photo. You can find lines among walls, mountain ranges, windows, fences, buildings, telephone wires, and roads.

6. Space

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Just a few rules ago, we told you to “fill the frame.” Now we’re going to tell you to leave some space in your photo. Leave some room in front of moving people or objects within your photo so that people can mentally imagine your subject moving. 

7. Keep Horizons Straight

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If there is a horizontal line in your shot, be sure to keep that line straight. Not doing so will cause anyone who sees the photo to wonder if your children are falling. A tilted shot does not make for a more creative image.

Break the Rules

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Actually, the only rule in photography is that there are no rules. While we covered six basic photography rules today that can be applied to almost any situation, that doesn’t mean that you can’t break the rules to create incredibly beautiful images.  Start applying these rules and you’ll be amazed at how universal most of them are. Not only will you see the rules everywhere, but you’ll quickly see why some photos “work,” and others are nothing more than a snapshot.

In the coming weeks, we’ll break down these photography composition rules a step further. Until then, start practicing. You can even post your favorite images using the 7 Basic Photography Rules to our Facebook Page. We’d love to see what you and your children are doing in front of the camera!

Make sure you check out this post on Mom’s Guide to Buying a Digital Camera.

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk






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Ashley Sisk
Ashley Siskhttp://ashleysisk.com
Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids and Kitty Paw. She’s a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time trying to get through elementary school with her daughter, chasing her firefighter loving little boy, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.


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