My 4 Favorite Rules of Composition

My 4 Favorite Rules of Composition

Composing a photo is sometimes the last thing we’re thinking about when we go to take a shot of our kids, right?  They’re doing something cute (or stinky) and we want to just make sure we catch it before the moment flies away.  But just for the sake of becoming better at something, I’ve listed out my 4 favorite rules of composition that we can use to compose photos of our kids.  Maybe one of these tips will help you out so much that you’ll feel awesome & proud to post your next photo because you know it’s amazing.  🙂  (and not just because you’re kid is super cute, but because it follows the rules/guidelines)

To clarify, when we talk about the composition of a photo, we are talking about how each item in the photo is related to the other.

Hey – do you like video better?  Go here to check out a quick Facebook live I did about this post!  🙂

1. Rule of Thirds

My favorite (and the one I think I use the most) rule of composition is the Rule of Thirds.  The easiest way to make sure you follow the rule of thirds is to imagine a 9 hole grid over the image.  Like this:

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Your DSLR probably has the option to do this on the live screen view mode.  If so, use that to help you until you can “see” it without. I’d recommend not relying on that all the time mainly because that feature drains your battery.  🙂

It’s best to be able to see the grid in your head because it’s good to know the rules.  This way you can recognize them in other people’s work.  It also helps you know when you can break the rules if you want.  😉

I think most cell phones also have this grid pop up when you’re taking a photo – mine does and it’s cheeeaaaap.  So if mine does, yours probably does too.  😉  So even your phone photos can follow the rules and be awesome!

To follow the rule of thirds, your goal is to get the main part of the image on one of the intersecting lines (the red dots in this image).  In this first image I probably should have put her eyes on the top or bottom right red dot to be “correct”.  But her face is in the right third of the image, so it still works.

If you have trouble remembering what this grid looks like, just remember that it’s basically off-centered.  Lol.  🙂  

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Most images are more pleasing to look at when they follow the rule of thirds.  I’m sure this is why we see it so much in photography and all forms of art.  I sure tend to use this rule the most of all when I’m shooting.

2. Centered

Even though the most used guideline of composition is the rule of thirds, there are definitely still times when you want the subject of your photo to be dead center.  In this photo, my daughter and son were having so much fun catching toads out at my parents farm on a sunny spring day.  I wanted to get a photo where the toad + my daughter’s hands were the focus of the photo and were centered in the frame.

centered rule of composition - www.andreaschrag.comThis method is also very effective for Instagram posts in particular – the square crop lends itself nicely to a centered photo.

It really shows the viewer exactly what you want them to see first and what is the important part of your photo.

For me, this was the most important part because I think that most girls probably don’t go around holding toads and wearing dresses.  My daughter does and I love that.  🙂  So I liked the contrast between her pretty blue dress in the background and the toad in her hands in the foreground.  

I set my focus on her hands & the toad and got as close as I could before Mr. Toad decided he’d had enough of the photo shoot.  🙂

Here, my daughter received a guitar for her birthday (something she really wanted and now 6 months later has yet to really start playing, but I digress).  I always try to take each kid out around their birthday to get photos of them, so we brought along her new guitar to get some photos with it.  I took several photos of her sitting on this bench with the guitar; some I followed the rule of thirds and some I centered.  I liked this one the best because of her expression and I just liked the feel of her in the center more than the others.

rules of composition


3. Framing

Another way to improve the composition of the photo is to frame our subject.  This can be with a doorway, a overhanging branch, structure outside or even a hallway.

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In this photo, my little boy was looking out on everyone playing at the splash park.  I think he was trying to figure out if he wanted to join the madness.  🙂

See the light poles in the distance? I love how they curve inward.  They frame him into the shot nicely, don’t you think?  It’s a subtle frame, but it still does its job to lead your eye in to the subject of the photo.

The next time you’re lining up your shot, look to see if there’s something in the shot that you could use to frame your child…I’d love to see what you come up with!  🙂

4. Negative Space

And now the last in my line up of my 4 favorite rules of composition…negative space.  Leaving blank, open space to the side, above or below your subject can add interest to your photo.  It also helps the viewer focus on the main subject.  It creates a less distracting image and is very intriguing.

Have my 4 favorite rules of composition helped?  There are more, but I hope these helped you feel ready to tackle a new way of photographing your kids!  I would love to see what you come up with!  If you take a photo and post it on Instagram, use the hashtag #greateverydayphotos.  That way I can see them and cheer you on!  🙂

See you next time!

I'm a photographer mom who loves teaching other moms how to boss their big girl camera around!

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