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Composition is one of the most important elements in photography. The way your pictures are composed will greatly be reflected in the final outcome or your work. There are several techniques that may be used to improve the results of your photographs but these are not hard and fast rules. They are merely guidelines that may be adapted to your particular style and creativeness.

Eliminating unwanted distractions will draw a viewer's attention to your primary subject. By paying careful attention to what you see in the viewfinder, you can eliminate annoying objects and other unflattering elements from your photographs before you take them. It is much easier to reposition yourself and to recompose a picture initially than it is to get rid of a tree limb, sign or something else you don't want in your shot after you have taken it. Sometimes you may want some simple distractions, however. For example, a photograph of a meadow in the springtime may be enhanced if you have a hot air balloon hovering in the sky in one corner of your picture. The hot air balloon would not necessarily be your primary subject but it would be a welcome addition to your picture and give it a different look.

Backgrounds and foregrounds can also greatly influence your resulting photographs. Plain or boring backgrounds can make an otherwise good picture look ordinary. Simple subjects taken against colorful and flattering backgrounds may appear more appealing and dramatic. A little girl licking a dripping ice cream cone while sitting in a wading pool would have a simple but appealing look. The same child and ice cream cone would look entirely different if she was sitting high atop a Ferris wheel at the fair. Foregrounds can also be helpful in giving perspective to your photographs. They can add depth of field or size perspective to your photographs. If you take a picture of a sailboat and have children running on the beach in foreground of your picture it will have an entirely different look than if the picture shows children playing on the beach and a small crab scaling their sand castle in the foreground.

Framing can add dimension to your photographs as well. Using the existing scenery can greatly enhance the artistic effects of your pictures. Taking a close up picture of a bird's nest will not have the same visual impact as taking a picture of the same nest as you peer through the tree branches that shelter it. Buildings can be used to frame a busy sidewalk, a hot dog vendor and traffic stopped at a red light. A window can be used to frame a picture of your child swinging or playing in your yard. The opportunities are only limited to your own imagination and creativity.

Lines are often a difficult concept for most photographers to understand and use. They can make pictures more dynamic and lively by directing the viewer's attention from one part of the photograph to another. Implicit and explicit lines are the two types of lines that can be used. Explicit lines are lines that are actually seen within your picture such as sidewalks and trees. Most people view these lines intuitively without much thought. For example, most people's eyes would follow a sidewalk up to the front door of a house. Implicit lines are more interesting and creative because you do not see them directly. Shapes of clouds, rainbows, and a ballerina with her arm and leg outstretched would all be examples of implicit lines.

The rule of thirds can be applied to photography in many ways and be a tremendous asset when composing pictures. In order to utilize this principle you must look through the viewfinder and imagine it as a tic-tac-toe board with imaginary lines running horizontally and vertically through the frame. The 4 intersections of the imaginary lines and the center square make up the critical points of your photograph. Generally, you will want your primary subject to be centered at one of these points to create a natural asymmetrical balance. The eye has a tendency to focus on a point about two-thirds up the page so this is an excellent place to locate your main subject. Other objects can be offset in the background or foreground to add different dimensions to your pictures.

There are many less complex techniques and elements that can be used as well in composing photographs. Simplicity will keep your subject from becoming lost against a cluttered background. Contrast will give more of a visual impact when light subjects are placed against dark backgrounds or when dark subjects are placed against light backgrounds. Balance will give a photograph a more pleasing appearance. It is not always necessary to have your primary subject centered in every picture. Offsetting the subject and using other objects to make the picture more symmetrical will have a greater visual impact. Viewpoint can also dramatically affect the outcome of your pictures. Finding an unusual point of view or perspective when composing your photograph will give it a more unique and creative look. For example, taking a photograph of a child reaching for the cookie jar on the counter will look much different if you take it while lying on the floor and looking up as if you were a child viewing the scene. Lighting can also be used to give a simple subject a fresh look. For example, sunlight can be used to spotlight a flower or bird that is perched in a highly shadowed background between some large trees.

Composing photographs is not difficult to accomplish. Putting some thought and creativity into your pictures can give them a more impressive appearance and draw more attention to them. The price of a camera is not always correlated to the quality of the photographs it takes. A good photographer can take better pictures with a less sophisticated camera than a poor photographer can take using state of the art equipment. Good pictures can be taken with almost any camera when proper techniques are applied.