Black and White, Black and White Photography, Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – Composition


I had recently been asked to participate in a post called “Blog hop around the world”.   In this post I had to answer four questions about my craft or passion which is photography.  I was totally blown away with the comments and positive response I had received for this post and surprised how many people were encouraging me to write more.  I have never really been one to write much with my posts but rather to post photographs with brief descriptions.  People actually were interested in what was going on inside my head while I was taking photos (which is a very scary thought in itself).

So here is the first post in a series of called “You Asked For It”.  The inner workings of an old retired guys mind who happens to love the art of photography 🙂

We will start the series off with the subject of – Composition.  Why are we starting off with composition ?  Because thats what I feel like talking about today (you asked me to write, but I never said I would be a good teacher, LOL).  Actually most cameras today have advanced metering systems and lots of automatic features so achieving proper exposure with them is usually pretty easy.

What are the building blocks or elements that make a good photograph ?

1.  Proper exposure – This is a given, proper exposure is essential for a good photograph.  Lets admit it we have all seen a photograph from a friend or relative that is so badly exposed you can hardly recognize the subject matter.

2.  Subject matter – This is kind of subjective because whats interesting to one person might be pretty boring to someone else. Lets all agree for the moment that we are talking about subject matter thats interesting to everyone.

3.  Composition – This one is a biggie in my opinion, you might be able to get away with poor composition but then I would call it a snapshot not a photograph. Composition is what makes your image appealing.  Have you ever seen an image that you just can’t stop looking at ?   The reason most likely is the photographer nailed all three of the above elements.

The Rule Of Thirds

How many of you have heard of “The rule of thirds” ?  Lets see a show of hands.  Okay you can put your hands down now I can’t see them anyway.

The rule of thirds states you should divide your scene into thirds in both the horizontal and vertical planes so the easiest way to do this is with gridlines. Most modern DSLR’s have a feature that can be turned on via the menu system called gridlines. My Nikon D610, Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujifilm X-E2 all have this feature. If your camera does not have this feature you will just have to imagine a blank Tic-Tac-Toe board or a total of nine squares.


The above photo is typically what I see through my viewfinder when the gridlines are turned on.  I usually leave the gridlines on all the time so I am not fumbling through the menus when I want to grab a shot.  The whole premise of the rule of thirds is to place one of the points of interest in your photo where any one or more of the lines of the grid intersect each other.   Before you ask you will not get extra points if you intersect all four locations, thats not the objective here. As you can see in the above example the hull of the ship is intersecting the bottom horizontal line and the vertical line to the right.  You can also see that the top horizontal line and the vertical line to the right is almost intersecting where one of the masts is placed.  What would make this image perfect composition would be if the horizon was a little lower so it would intersect the bottom horizontal line and the left vertical line.  After looking at the photo I decided to raise the horizon to its present place in the cropping process because I liked the way it looked better.   The rule of thirds should be used as a guideline for composition.   It is not cast in stone where you have to use it every time but in the majority of cases when used will make for better composition in your images.


Here is the same image with the gridlines removed.  I also used a wide angle 24mm lens on a full frame sensor camera to accentuate the ship a little more (I was a lot closer to this ship than you would think from the photo).

I hope I have explained this subject so most of you will walk away with an “AhHa” moment but if I was not clear please contact me through the “Contact Me” menu on the home page of this blog and explain to me which part is not clear and I will contact you through email to try and answer your questions.

Next Friday’s topic – Depth of field


35 thoughts on “You Asked For It – Composition

  1. Hi Joe, I popped over to have a look at your tutorials from Joannesisco’s site where you left a link. I am an instinctive, amateur photographer who sort of understands the technical terms used in photography, but struggles to come to terms with them practically. So basically what I am saying is that I tend to stick to using the auto settings 😉
    Having just bought a new mirrorless camera (Olympus OMD-10) I would like to take advantage of its capabilities so any help I can find that does not confuse me I am happy to accept. Having read this tutorial (happily I DO understand the rule of thirds) and like the way you write I shall have a look at the rest. Hopefully I’ll come out of this with a better understanding, if not at least I shall have the joy of discovering your beautiful photography. Thank you 🙂
    Jude xx


  2. Gallery of Postcards says:

    I am very new to photography. I love taking photos when I travel, but I never tried editing them. This is very helpful.


  3. Great first tutorial, you give yourself way too little credit for your writing, it’s excellent! Learning about rule of thirds is definitely beneficial, I mean it’s so easy yet it gives you a better shot. If you’re stuck for further ideas later on, I’d love to learn about finding symmetrical lines or those special composition lines in every day pictures. Hope your weekend goes well! 🙂


  4. I’ve been reading and viewing articles and videos about photography for over a year. Most of them are poorly written and difficult to understand. Then I read your article this morning about Composition. It was clear as morning dew. This is exactly what I had been looking for, since I’m an amateur photographer with no formal training whatsoever. Everything I do is by gut feeling. I’ll certainly follow your next posts and adopt them to my picture-taking.

    About your writing style—don’t worry—it’s good as any good writer worth its salt. You have the knack for photography and for writing too. Can’t get any better than this. Will be waiting in the wings for your next post about Depth of Field. Thank you for caring for us beginners!


    • That makes me feel great Omar 🙂 When I discuss photography with someone that is interested in person I can slowly watch their eyeballs gloss over and then they start bleeding, LOL. I’m glad you walked away with an “AHA” moment. Thank you for your kind words 🙂


  5. LB says:

    Nicely done, Joe! Your Rule of Thirds description was excellent (and this, coming from a renegade rule breaker!).
    I’m looking forward to this series … maybe I’ll finally learn some of the science of photography. Very cool


  6. AHA!! I raised my hand and was disappointed you couldn’t see me sitting up so tall and straight too…….

    That is an excellent first tutorial! And my major ‘aha’ moment centred around the fact that as an artist I work with the grid, the horizon lines and the disappearing point all the time – and when I look at really good photos like this one I note those things really quickly – but – and here’s the kicker Joe – I never think about when I pick up my camera. I just want to try and get whatever into full shot and as unblurred as possible 🙂 Cheeses!! Suddenly I’m feeling that there may be hope for me with my little point and shoot 🙂 Thanks Joe – that was great!


    • Haha, I faked you out with your hand Pauline 🙂 I am really glad that you came away from this post with an “AHA” moment. As an artist you start with a blank canvas, a scene you have in mind or are looking at and a brush. As a photographer I start with a blank frame, a scene I am looking at and a digital sensor to capture it. We both end up with a similar finished product by taking the same steps so I would guess the rules would be interchangeable too 🙂 Have a wonderful evening.


  7. I’ve never seen the rule of thirds explained so well Joe. 🙂 Besides being a great photographer you are an excellent teacher! 🙂 An awesome idea to start such a series of posts. ps. I loved the place where we needed to raise hands and put them down because you can’t see them anyway. LOL. 🙂


    • Thank you very much Elina 🙂 I have to inject my silly sense of humor when I write because I feel so awkward. I’m not a writer so its kind of challenging to try to express my thoughts. Besides that I really have a hard time taking myself serious, LOL 🙂 Have a wonderful day.


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