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Composition Is King | Tips for Better Photos

Composition has a tremendous effect on how we react to images and is one of the most important elements of a good image.

By 4 min read 1

You snap photos throughout the day hoping to capture every detail of your experience in Japan. Steaming yakitori, click. Vending machines, click. Cute girl wearing kimono, click, click, click. When you sit down for an iced latte and starting scrolling through your images, they just don’t seem like the ones you see in Nat Geo or your dogeared Lonely Planet. Your shots don’t even match up to the Instagram feeds you subscribe to. Why?

The cause isn’t an inability to press the camera shutter or find a decent subject. What you lack is a framework, an understanding of photographic knowledge. But don’t fret. With a base of composition fundamentals, your travel photos can move from lacklustre to double-tap worthy.

Composition Is King

Composition, is simple terms, is the way you frame a photograph. As you bring your camera to your face or your phone in front of you, you might not even realize that you are composing a picture. Most people don’t necessarily even think of composition when they look at their own photographs. Yet, composition has a tremendous effect on how we react to images and is one of the most important elements of a good image.

For beginning photographers wanting to quickly improve their snaps, learning the basics of composition is essential. Here are a four easy-to-remember tips that will help you improve your travel photos here in Japan.

Identify the Subject


While it seems like a no-brainer, identifying your photographic subject is paramount. Many amateur photographers shoot photos and don’t really have an intended subject, pointing their device in a direction and clicking the shutter. While shooting a photograph of a scene can yield an information-rich photo, it is always best to start with a distinct subject. Whether a person or a perfectly sliced piece of nigiri, make sure that the subject of your photograph is clearly defined.

Pro-Hint- Do you best to declutter a scene so that your subject is easy to identify. Allow your subject to own the space of the frame.

Rule of Thirds


One of the most utilized tools in composition is the Rule of Thirds. When you look through your camera’s viewfinder or the back of your phone, imagine it covered with the lines of a tic-tac-toe board. Where the vertical and horizontal lines meet is considered a “third.” By placing your subject/s on or near those thirds, you will likely create an image that is balanced and pleasing to the eye.

Pro-Hint – Many cameras have an option to place a thirds grid over your photograph as you look through the viewfinder or at the LCD screen. Take the time to learn more about the options your camera has and see if this function is available on your camera model.

Leading Lines


When we look at photographs, it is natural for our eyes to be drawn to lines. How you place lines in your photograph can affect the way it is seen and interpreted by our brain’s processing centers. By organizing lines (straight or curved) in your composition, you can pull the eyes into the photograph, bring interest to your intended subject, or take the viewer on an adventure through the scene.

Pro-Hint – Lines can also be subjects within themselves. Keep your eyes peeled for sets of lines to compose visually interesting compositions.

Point of View


When you begin to take photos, it is natural to whip out your camera or phone and snap what is directly in front of you, keeping your device at eye-level. Viewpoint has a massive impact on composition and taking the time to think about the position from which you will shoot your subject can vastly improve the quality of your photo. The next time you take a photo, ask yourself if there is another way to view your subject. What would your subject look like if it was seen from another viewpoint (from below or above, beside or behind, from a distance, etc.)?

Pro-Hint – Vary your point of view to add punch to your travel photography collection. Photo after photo taken from the same angle gets boring to viewers. Stay engaged by utilizing multiple points of view.

Your Assignment:

Now that you are familiar with some of the fundamentals of composition, order another latte and scroll back through the photos you have taken throughout your stay in Japan. Ask yourself what composition techniques you could have used to improve your photos.

Do you have more composition tips? Share what has worked for you in the comments section.


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  • Robby D Jones says:

    I would also say most people don’t do the most basic editing, cropping. If you want better composition crop your photos after the fact. Not all photos need to have standard dimensions either. Super basic article but good for people to keep in mind.



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