One of the most impor­tant pho­tog­ra­phy tech­niques is cre­at­ing a strong accent. With­out it, your pho­to won’t hold the view­er’s atten­tion.

When you are about to take a pic­ture, there are two main ques­tions to answer. What is the main theme of the image? And what can be done to pay atten­tion to it?

The most impor­tant part is to find some­thing inter­est­ing that will act as the main char­ac­ter. Some­times it is obvi­ous — for exam­ple, it is a per­son. But often you need to take a clos­er look.

Once you have decid­ed on the main object, the fun begins. You need to decide how to prop­er­ly place the sub­ject in the frame in order to cre­ate an accent. This is where com­po­si­tion comes in handy.

1. Find a strong center

If you want your pho­to to make a strong impres­sion, make sure the image has a cen­ter of mean­ing. We call it focus because that’s what the view­er needs to focus on.

If there is no seman­tic cen­ter in the pho­to, the view­er will for­get about your pic­ture as soon as they turn away from it. A strong focus will leave a last­ing impres­sion.

Sharp focus imme­di­ate­ly gives the view­er an under­stand­ing of what you want to rep­re­sent in a par­tic­u­lar pho­to. With­out the per­son in the pic­ture above, the pho­to would be rather bor­ing — a brown hill and a gray sky. By includ­ing the per­son in the shot, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er has added a focus point that draws atten­tion.

The per­son in the frame is a great way to cre­ate strong focus, espe­cial­ly in land­scape pho­tos. Peo­ple or any oth­er inter­est­ing object in a land­scape scene adds mean­ing to the pho­tos.

The focus can also be a tree, a build­ing, a flower, an umbrel­la, etc. Shoot as if the sub­ject is the most impor­tant part of the scene and the rea­son you are actu­al­ly tak­ing the pic­ture.

When you go to a pho­to shoot, take props with you so you can cre­ate a focal point if you can’t find it in nature.

Some­times your image may include mul­ti­ple focal points, such as the tree and per­son in the pho­to above. This works if the objects togeth­er cre­ate a strong image.

In the pho­to below, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er has placed his hand in the fore­ground, reach­ing out towards the light and smoke.

With­out the hand, the smoke and rays of light would be the focus in this shot, but when the pho­tog­ra­ph­er adds the hand, a lit­tle sto­ry is cre­at­ed. If you have such a busy scene in front of you, it is very use­ful to add a strong focus.

2. Use negative space

One of the most beau­ti­ful tricks, in my opin­ion, for cre­at­ing a strong accent is to leave a lot of neg­a­tive space in the pho­to. This emp­ty space allo­cates the object.

Using neg­a­tive space allows you to shoot small objects with­out los­ing them in the frame. This is a great method for cap­tur­ing objects at a dis­tance.

In the exam­ple above, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er was shoot­ing from a dis­tance, so he added an emp­ty sky to the frame, and the tiny object in the dis­tance stood out.

In this pho­to, the focus point in the cen­ter of the frame is quite small, but since the rest of the scene is emp­ty, it remains a strong cen­ter that catch­es the eye.

Don’t be afraid to leave a lot of emp­ty space in your pho­tos. In most cas­es, this will help give your sub­ject more mean­ing by cre­at­ing a strong com­po­si­tion, even if the sub­ject is small in the frame.

3. Use an accent color

Use an object that has a bright col­or, or just a dif­fer­ent col­or from the back­ground, to draw atten­tion to the object.

Although the lake itself in the pho­to above is wor­thy of a sep­a­rate shot, with­out a focus point, it would not play.

The red jack­et cre­ates a strong accent because the col­or stands out against the mut­ed tones of nature. This sim­ple trick made the image much more inter­est­ing.

The rose draws the atten­tion of the view­er in a way that the grass itself would nev­er be able to. Adding one col­ored object com­plete­ly changes the result.

Yes, as you prob­a­bly guessed, red is one of the most win-win options. It stands out well in almost any scene.

But try exper­i­ment­ing with objects of dif­fer­ent col­ors against a back­ground of dif­fer­ent col­ors.

4. Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is prob­a­bly the most famous com­po­si­tion tech­nique in pho­tog­ra­phy. You should remem­ber this rule, as it will help you posi­tion the main object in a win­ning way.

The rule of thirds looks like this: two hor­i­zon­tal and two ver­ti­cal lines that cre­ate nine rec­tan­gu­lar areas of the same size.

The rule of thirds says that you should place your point of inter­est where two lines inter­sect, as these are the parts of the frame that attract the human eye.

We per­ceive object place­ment to be more har­mo­nious and bal­anced when it is posi­tioned accord­ing to the rule of thirds rather than any­where else in the frame. So, in the pho­to above, the woman on the bale of straw is at the inter­sec­tion of two lines, which cre­ates a nat­ur­al and bal­anced com­po­si­tion.

You can turn on the grid in your smart­phone app: Set­tings —> Cam­era —> Grid (in the Com­po­si­tion sec­tion).

You can also use it to avoid block­ing the hori­zon in a pho­to.

The rule of thirds can be used in all kinds of pho­tog­ra­phy: urban, land­scape, por­trait, nature, sports, etc.

When you are a begin­ner, try to use the rule of thirds as often as pos­si­ble. This will help you start think­ing in pic­tures.

After a while, you will feel more con­fi­dent and, aban­don­ing the rule of thirds, will start look­ing for your own ways to com­pose.

For exam­ple, plac­ing an object in the cen­ter works well when cre­at­ing square images because it makes great sym­met­ri­cal com­po­si­tions. But the rule of thirds will always sup­port you, don’t for­get about it.

5. Use shallow depth of field

Shal­low depth of field is when only a small part of the image, a spe­cif­ic sub­ject, is in focus. This is a great way to high­light the main char­ac­ter of the pic­ture.

If you set the focus on the main sub­ject and open the aper­ture to the max­i­mum, objects in the back­ground will appear blur­ry. Your eye will be attract­ed to the object in focus by itself, no mat­ter how loaded the back­ground is. Of course, the back­ground will still be there, but it won’t be as impor­tant as the fore­ground.

Shal­low depth of field is great for scenes with busy back­grounds, as shown above. If every­thing was in focus in this shot, the water droplets would be lost among all the oth­er details.

How to achieve shallow depth of field in iPhone photos?

Bring iPhone close to the sub­ject you are about to shoot, then touch that sub­ject on the screen to set the focus on that part of the scene. As a result, your main sub­ject should be in focus, and the back­ground will be blur­ry.

If the main sub­ject looks blur­ry, you’re prob­a­bly hold­ing your phone too close, so move back a lit­tle and then tap the sub­ject again to focus. If the back­ground does­n’t look blur­ry, then you’re not close enough to the sub­ject, so move clos­er and click again to focus.

The clos­er you are to the object you want to focus on, the more blurred the back­ground will be. Exper­i­ment with the dis­tance between the cam­era and the sub­ject until you get the desired result.

When try­ing to focus on small objects, such as water droplets on spi­der­webs, it may take sev­er­al tries to tap on a spe­cif­ic part of the screen for the cam­era to focus.

Use por­trait mode or the After­Fo­cus app to cre­ate a blur­ry back­ground.

6. Use Leading Lines

A lead­ing line is a scene line that leads from one part of the shot to the main sub­ject, and a way to draw atten­tion to it.

Lead­ing lines lead the view­er’s eye from the fore­ground of the image where the line begins to the point in the image where it ends.

Start by look­ing for a place where there are obvi­ous fea­tures that can be used as a lead­ing line, such as a road, rail­road tracks, a cor­ri­dor, a sub­way plat­form, a field with paths, tun­nels, etc.

Lead­ing lines have a very strong effect on their own, but it’s great if you include an object at the end of the line or along it. The per­son at the end of this tun­nel is a great focal point, as all the lines in the image lead straight to him.

Lead­ing line shots often look sym­met­ri­cal and are pleas­ing to the eye of per­fec­tion­ists and beyond.

If you want to cre­ate exact­ly sym­met­ri­cal shots, acti­vate the cam­era grid before shoot­ing. This will help you keep track of all the ele­ments in the frame that need to be aligned to achieve sym­me­try.

It is not nec­es­sary to use straight lines. Curved and S‑shaped lines, such as rivers and wind­ing roads, also form lead­ing lines. The spi­ral stair­cas­es look espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing from above.

The lead­ing lines in the por­trait can be hands and folds of cloth­ing.

7. Fill the frame with your theme

A very sim­ple way to declare an object is to fill the entire frame with it. So the view­er will def­i­nite­ly not have any doubts about what is the main char­ac­ter of your pic­ture.

Don’t be afraid to approach small objects. This will allow you to cap­ture them out of con­text, with­out dis­tract­ing back­grounds, and you can cap­ture close-ups of details that you might not oth­er­wise be able to see.

Noth­ing if you did­n’t include the whole object in the frame. For exam­ple, when pho­tograph­ing flow­ers, this works well because the unsight­ly back­ground is removed and the view­er’s full atten­tion is drawn to the beau­ti­ful and intri­cate details of the plant.

Frame fill is great for cre­at­ing abstract images. Look for pat­terns or lines on any sub­ject, large or small, and then frame your shot so that there is noth­ing in the frame but the sub­ject itself. With this tech­nique, even the sim­plest object can be turned into a breath­tak­ing piece of abstract art.

In the pho­to above, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er cap­tured the sur­face of the water and the reflec­tion of the light. If you imag­ine that the sky, clouds and maybe even some peo­ple would get into the frame, I think the pic­ture would not work, it would lose its influ­ence. When the frame is filled with noth­ing but water, it draws atten­tion to inter­est­ing light and tex­tures.

Here is anoth­er exam­ple where all the focus is on inter­est­ing tex­ture and light. Most like­ly, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er would not have received such a result if he decid­ed to include the beach area, the sea and the hori­zon in this image.

So don’t for­get to get clos­er, crop the shot and elim­i­nate the excess.

8. Develop your own unique methods

Once you’ve mas­tered these com­po­si­tion tech­niques, you can start exper­i­ment­ing by break­ing the “rules” and devel­op­ing a style that’s unique to you. It would be bor­ing if we all took the same pho­tos using the same meth­ods.

How­ev­er, remem­ber the basic rules of com­po­si­tion. Rules are made to be bro­ken, but you can’t break rules if you don’t know them.

Before you take a pic­ture, ask your­self, “What is my main sub­ject and what can I do to make it stand out and draw the view­er’s atten­tion to that sub­ject?”

Anoth­er pop­u­lar way to draw atten­tion to a sub­ject is to cen­ter the sub­ject at the bot­tom of the frame.

And when we place the sub­ject in the cen­ter of the frame, we feel bal­ance and har­mo­ny.

When tak­ing these shots, there is no doubt about where the focus is, even with a bright back­ground.

The beau­ty of this tech­nique is that it always works. Basi­cal­ly, you are recre­at­ing the same image over and over again. Just use a new object each time and get a new image.

Even if viewed as act­ing with­in a com­fort zone, it evokes cre­ative think­ing any­way. You will be look­ing for new com­bi­na­tions and dif­fer­ent items to cre­ate a new look.

So from now on, even when doing the most bor­ing gar­den work, you will have a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate an inter­est­ing look with a strong focus!

Exper­i­ment, try new com­po­si­tions, shoot from dif­fer­ent angles, and soon you will cre­ate stun­ning pho­tos with a clear seman­tic cen­ter that will instant­ly grab the view­er’s atten­tion.