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Compositional Elements - More than just Rules!

“Break the Rules”? Nope – in almost every case, a compelling photograph or image contains compositional elements that draw our eye into the image, hold our attention, and create an emotional response or connection.


A simple take on the rules of composition: “yup – they are there because they work”. Yet, something about us makes us rebel against “rules”, so let’s just call them “elements” – and there are a lot of them!



Here, I’ll break down this photograph into 4 elements that likely caused me to stop. I didn’t consciously see these when walking upriver, but something made me set up the tripod and take a series of photos from this spot. After finishing the photo, I looked deeper into it and came up with 4 main elements: leading lines, focal points, diagonals, and triangles.


1. Leading lines – the gap between the boulders leads into a focal point at the top bend of the river.


2. The riverbanks are lines that also lead to that same focal point in the river.


3. The top of the river leads the eye to the bright mountain – focal point - in the distance.


4. Three boulders in the foreground – focal points - catch the eye and lead also into the river.


5. Diagonal lines in the canyon walls draw the eye to the head of the river.

6. There are at least 9 triangles, all pointing into the upper center of the photo.


There are additional compositional elements here that contribute to the photograph, I’ll leave it up to you to find them!

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