The composition of any image can be explained simply as the reason you are either attracted to an image or can simply look right past it. As a way to discuss how this works we have developed terms tha

The composition of any image can be explained simply as the reason you are either attracted to an image or can simply look right past it. As a way to discuss how this works we have developed terms that describe the various elements of composition, so that we might have a common language in which to discuss the specific effects composition can have. In this lesson you will learn these terms and see examples of them so as to better understand what it is that attracts you to particular imagery, both at a personal level and a commercial one – meaning the kind of imagery that compels you to buy or participate in something. Learning these terms and seeing how they work will allow you to view the visual world around you with a more analytical eye.

Visual literacy is the term that I would use to explain your ability to analyze, interpret and find meaning in visual imagery. This extends to how you might manipulate someone with an image, or be manipulated by one. The creator of an image is the author of that space, and if they utilize that space wisely they can lead a viewer done a very particular path.

Just $7 Welcome
Order Now


This assignment will focus on you using a photograph that you have taken yourself as an example of three compositional traits from the list below. I have provided you with multiple videos embedded below that will explain these terms with visual examples. Please watch all of the videos and then use the reference list below when making your own imagery. You may select an image that you have taken some time ago.

You will post your image below, along with a few sentences explaining which terms that you used in order to make a compositionally engaging photograph. What I mean by this will become very apparent once you view the video lessons and go through the list.

VIDEOS WITH VISUAL EXAMPLES: (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)


1. Rule of Thirds

A “rule of thumb” or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Please refer online for imagery of this grid. You should also have the option of enabling a grid on your smartphone camera.

2. Depth / Perspective / Atmospheric Perspective

The apparent existence of three dimensions in a picture, photograph, or other two-dimensional representation. Atmospheric perspective refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of an object as it is viewed from a distance.

3. Shape

A shape is two-dimensional. Of course a photograph itself is two-dimensional, but a shape in a photograph doesn’t have any appearance of depth. An object that appears to have depth either through lighting or perspective, is not a shape, but a form.

4. Form

Objects that appear to have depth, despite being part of a two-dimensional image, are part of the design elements of form. Forms usually appear to have depth through lighting that creates shadows, or by looking at the object from an angle, rather than straight onto one of the edges.

5.  Texture

The visual “feel”, appearance, or consistency of a surface or a substance.

6. Symmetry

The quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis.

7. Asymmetry

The lack of equality or equivalence between parts or aspects of something; lack of symmetry.

8. Pattern

A repeated decorative design, as is often seen in tiles and textiles, as well as being found in the structure of plants and the markings on animals.

9. Depth of Field

Essentially, it is having certain elements in focus and the rest out of focus. An example would be the subject of the image being in the foreground and in-focus, while the objects just a bit further away are out of focus (or vice-versa).

10. Lines (Real, Implied, and Leading)

Lines form the edges of shapes, but they also form shapes of their own. Lines are natural and artificial; existing in nature and created by humans. Real lines you actually see, implied lines aren’t physical. An example of an “implied” line would be the “line” created when a person in the image is looking off into the distance. The direction of their gaze becomes a “line”. A leading line is a line that directs your eye directly to the subject.

Vertical lines in a photograph add tension to the scene. They also show strength and stability. Horizontal lines provide a sense of calm. Diagonals impart energy and a sense of dynamics to the frame.

11. Frames / Framing / Frame-within-a-frame

A framing object refers to anything in the scene that can be used to form a visual frame around the subject or focal point.

12. Contrast

Utilizing the full spectrum from dark to light, or exaggerating the darks and lights, or having a dramatically-lit subject or scene that employs heavy shifts between dark and light. This difference is what creates the textures, highlights, shadows, colors and clarity in a photograph.

13. Color

A component of light which is separated when it is reflected off of an object. Color begins with light and the colors we see are influenced by the characteristics of the light source. Wavelengths of reflected light determine what color you see. You may refer to a color wheel (I presented this class) to employ basic color theory, such as complimentary colors.

14. Viewpoint

The position we take the photograph from. This will also be the position you place the viewer in when they are looking at your finished shot. The viewpoint can dramatically change the feel of the photograph.

15. Negative / Positive Space

Simply put, positive space is the actual subject while negative space (also called white space) is the area that surrounds the subject. You will focus primarily on the negative space (let’s say a huge amount of sky dominating the image, with a small tree on the horizon at the bottom of the image).

16. Curves

Curves make an image easy to look at by leading the viewer’s eye through the frame. The viewer’s eyes are compelled to follow the line. Curves are graceful, rhythmic, dynamic and add energy to an image.

17. Conceptual

The idea behind the image, or what that image symbolizes, becomes a major part of the image.