Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography – Part 3

Part Three of our Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography series is finally here!!!  To say I became distracted from my blogging during the summer break and fall season is an understatement!

But, after much anticipation, we will be diving into the composition elements Depth, Depth of Field, Framing, and Cropping.

If you haven’t already read the first two parts of our series, we discussed the basic Rule of Thirds, Rule of Odds, Balancing ElementsLeading Lines in Part One.  And Part Two explored Patterns, Textures, and Background.

I just want to remind you AGAIN; Some of these compositions may come easily to you, in the sense that you already do it without even realizing you’re doing it.  Others may take time and practice to master.

**NEVER settle with your first shot.  ALWAYS take several pictures from multiple angles while testing out these natural photo effects.**

Elements of Composition for Photography

–Part Three

The goal of composition for photography is to express the idea of the artist by necessary means by showing your subject or object in a flattering, aesthetically pleasing manner that entertains the eye.  You will probably be working with a wide range of subjects and scenes and what works for one photo, may not work for another.  The key is to understand which elements of composition will positively affect your shot and how someone perceives the photo.


Our cameras capture a three-dimensional image and converts it to a two-dimensional photograph.  It is this simple principle that makes creating a sense of depth in an image challenging.

Images that portray depth engage the viewer to explore the scene, rather than observe it, and can produce a more interesting photo.

How do you obtain achieve depth in a photo?

Often, a slight change in the viewpoint can completely transform your photo.

sarrie web deisgns - composition for photography - depth

In this photo, the sense of depth was enhanced by including objects of interest in the foreground.  This allows the viewer’s eye to venture around the image, from foreground to background.  You can emphasize your scene’s depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.

Angling your camera to deliberately partially obscure one object with another is another useful composition technique used to create depth in an image.  By overlapping these objects, you reconstruct the scene in the viewer’s mind because the human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out.


Tips: Layering is particularly effective when there is a notable contrast in the shade or texture of two overlapping objects. This contrast helps to separate the objects from one another.

Depth of Field

Depth of field (DOF) refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp, making it an extension to the element of depth.

The depth of field does not drastically change from sharp to blurred, but instead occurs as a gradual transition.  This means everything in the immediate foreground is in full focus but everything in back of the subject matter begins to subtlety blur.  The two main factors that create this effect are your camera’s aperture and the distance between the lens and subject.  Because every camera is different, you will have to play around with both these settings to successfully achieve depth of field.

sarrie web designs - composition for photography - depth of field

Tips:  Depth of field control is one of the most important tools in your creative arsenal. With it, you can reduce the distraction of busy backgrounds, or ensure that everything in your image is razor-sharp. Using a small lens opening ( a high aperture number like f/11 or f/16) may require you to use a slow shutter speed to let enough light in for a good exposure.


Framing is defined as the technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene.

The world is full of objects that make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways, and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition, you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world.

Sarrie Web Designs - Composition for Photography - Framing

A rule of thumb for framing is to ask the question ‘will this add to or take away from the image?’  Sometimes framing can just add clutter to a shot and make it feel cramped but at other times it can be the difference between an ordinary shot and a stunning one.


Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background noise, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.

Sarrie Web Designs - composition for photography - cropping

Why Crop In-Camera, opposed to post editing?

  • Images cropped in-camera look different compared to images that are cropped in post-production.  Filling the frame and cropping tight means that you will create great background blur, which removes any background distractions and focuses more attention on your model, which is always a good thing.
  • Post production cropping takes up a lot of extra time and it can really open the door for mediocrity and laziness if you get accustom to fixing everything you shoot.
  • The other advantage of cropping in-camera is that your file size is not affected. A loosely photographed cropped image may only leave you with 10-15% of your file size, so a file that was originally 30MB as a full size image, is reduced to 3MB with a tight crop. Lower resolution images have less detail and won’t be as sharp as a full size image.


We’ve covered what I find to be the basics of composition for photography and it’s elements but the subject is vastly growing with new standards and guides every day.

Rules are made to be broken…  But doing it by accident doesn’t count! It’s when you understand the rules of composition for photography and then break them on purpose that things start to get interesting. And it’s often best to break one rule at time.

Although this concludes my three-part series of composition for photography, make sure to keep exploring and experimenting with your compositions and share the results with us!

You can also review the first two parts of this series here:

Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography – Part One

Ultimate Guide to Elements of Composition for Photography – Part Two

Why is Photography Important for my Web Design?

Since first impressions are formed within seconds and most of the information we consume and interpret is visual, quality design can make your site and your brand stick in the viewer’s mind as professional and credible.  Photographs not only show the visitor what you offer, but can also make them want to act. People no longer just want to browse a website, they want to experience it.

I cannot express how critical good photography is for your website. Images go directly into long-term memory.  Where as words are processed by our short-term memory. Images can be called upon when thinking about a particular business or company.  I have worked with numerous clients that only had poor images available to display on their webpage. This forces them to:

a) Feature poor quality, small, and/or low resolution images on their website.

b) Hire a professional photographer at the last-minute and create mock-up situations for their shoot.

c) Try to recapture the anesthetics of the scene and dedicate hours to taking new photographs again.

Simply put, photography can help or hurt you. Whether you hire a local photographer who can display your product, staff, or business in the best way possible, purchase a few stock photos with a positive message, or take the photographs yourself is up to you.  But after that first wonderful impression, customers will be more intrigued to know your story and invest in you.

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