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10 Basics for Great Photography

There is a lot that goes into getting a great photo: Lighting, equipment, and being in the right place at the right time. Many times capturing just the right picture can feel like a stroke of luck and sometimes it truly is, but there are also “rules” or guidelines that can help you capture that perfect picture. These guidelines are called composition rules and are what we talk about when taking our guests on our Oahu Photography Tours in Hawaii. These are 10 basic composition rules to keep in mind while out picture hunting.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds speak to invisible, or visible depending on your camera, grid lines that can guide you as to how to frame your picture. When looking at your scene, divide it into 9 equal boxes or segments: Two lines will divide your picture vertically, and two will divide it horizontally. After you have this visual, place the elements or subjects of your picture along these grid lines or at the points where these lines intersect.

Balancing Elements

When you follow the rule of thirds, your subject will be off center in the picture. To balance the photo, find a way to include another lesser important element to fill the “void” of the other two-thirds of the picture. This element should have a complimentary “visual weight,” meaning it gives visual interest to the rest of the photography without detracting from the main subject.

Leading Lines

When you are looking at your frame, look for lines that naturally appear. Lines can be anything from a road, grid lines formed by an apartment architecture, and more. The lines that you will find can be straight, or curvy, zigzag, or even radial. The reason these lines are important is that you can use them to enhance the composition of your picture as a guide for the viewer’s eyes. Lines can lead the eyes of the viewer through the picture or towards the subject: Look for these lines that naturally appear and use them to your advantage.

Symmetry and Patterns

Symmetry and patterns can add a lot of interest to a picture and appear in natural and man-made scenes. Capturing symmetry or a pattern can make for a mesmerizing picture, but another way to capture an interesting photo is to break up the symmetry or pattern in an interesting way; this will introduce visual tension and give your frame a focal point. An example of creating a focal point is by adding a pop of color or an “extra” object to the scene.


Considering your viewpoint is incredibly important: Viewpoint means “from where are you taking your photo.” As the person behind the camera, you have endless possible viewpoints, but first, consider the basics: Eye level, above the subject, below the subject, off to the side, in front of, or behind, etc. Once you’ve picked where you are going to be, you can play with how far you want to be from the subject at this viewpoint.


An obvious, but sometimes missed “guideline” to consider when taking your photograph is the background. Your background should enhance your subject. Because a camera tends to flatten the picture, while the human eye can distinguish between those things in the background and the subject, find ways to capture your subject against a plain background.


As you have surmised from our discussion on background, capturing depth with a camera can be difficult. Photography is a two-dimensional medium, whereas we see our world in three dimensions. A way to create depth within a photo is to find ways to layer and overlap elements of your scene. The human eye will naturally interpret these “layers” as depth.


When you are looking at the scene or subject in view, find natural frames and use these to your advantage. These can be a means to draw the eye to the subject of your picture. Naturally occurring frames can be anything in your frame including trees and building architecture.


Cropping can be incredibly helpful when you are photographing small subjects and those surrounded by clutter. When you focus in and, therefore crop your picture, you are able to better direct the viewer’s eye to the subject that you wish to capture. When you are trying to capture a subject, remember that the viewer does not know where to look or what to focus on in a picture. As the photographer, it is your job to lead their eyes.


We are incredibly blessed to live in an age where costs of processing our pictures are incredibly low. With this in mind, have fun and experiment when you are out taking pictures. See what happens when you frame a scene or an object in a certain way by taking multiple pictures of the same subject, but from different vantage points, with greater or less cropping, etc. Taking great photographs ultimately is the result of practice.

Want to Learn More About Photography . . .

. . . and take a great vacation? Take an Oahu Photography Tour! We offer guided photography tours that will not only teach you valuable photography skills, but will show you the beautiful sights of Hawaii. All skill levels are welcome! Come enjoy this beautiful place, learn how to take better pictures, and have a great time. Book your Oahu Photography Tour today!