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The Photographer’s Eye: Part 3 – Composition Techniques

As part of a series of articles designed to help you take better images, Anne Watson, a member of the Whitley Bay Photographic Society, continues our journey into the world of composition.

In the previous articles we’ve looked at both the rule of thirds and leading lines and I hope this knowledge is helping you to slow down and compose the image you want your viewer to journey through with their eyes. In this article, I’ll ask you to consider breaking the rule of thirds from time to time (we all like to break rules occasionally) why symmetry can draw you in and why photographic ‘odds’ are more powerful than ‘evens’. 

The rule of thirds is a great technique to draw your viewer’s eye to the parts of the image you want them to focus on but there will be times when placing an object in the centre of the image makes sense as it’s ‘the star of the show’ and you don’t want to offer the viewer any distractions.

The square crop (pictured above), which the majority of cameras and smartphones have, helps focus the viewer into the image and offers their eyes little opportunity to wander.

The above images also offer an element of symmetry where a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line can be drawn through the image, and both sides will look very balanced. Research indicates that the human brain strives to see things symmetrically as it creates order and helps us make sense of the world around us”. Architectural structures (pictured below) provide the photographer with a never-ending supply of symmetrical opportunities to impress your friends by showing them an image of a building or suchlike knowing that it’s helping create order and a feeling that all’s right with the world!

If creating order gets a ‘thumbs’ up from our brain then why do photographers prefer to compose images with an odd number of elements? The answer lies in the brain’s desire to create order once again and that it unconsciously wants to group objects into pairs. But when an image has odd numbers of objects (pictured below) it’s a group that can’t easily be organised and thus it can make the viewer’s brain work a little harder and look at the image a little longer. Three, five or seven objects can work well but once you move beyond this number, we tend to treat all of the objects as a ‘group’ even if they’re odd.

In the next edition, we’ll be looking at more composition tips and techniques to help your images stand out and get noticed.

If you’re interested in joining the Whitley Bay Photographic Society, please visit