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12 Composition Ideas (Tips for Unique Results)

Last updated: September 21, 2023 - 9 min read
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Photography composition is often taught as a set of rules. But following the rules of composition all the time can result in unimaginative images.

This article gives you twelve unusual and interesting composition ideas to inspire you to be more adventurous.

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12 Composition Ideas (Tips for Unique Results)

We encourage you to defy conventions. Try more imaginative approaches. Begin by experimenting with these 12 unique composition concepts.

1. Include Composition Ideas in a Ruleless Crop

Good photography composition does not have to include your entire subject. Cut heads off. Remove limbs. Only include half of the whole.

To use this crop technique effectively, concentrate on what’s relevant. The photo of this guy (below) tells a whole story without even showing him.

You can imagine his day with his friends—cycling to a beautiful destination and having a campfire and dinner in the evening.

The image contains every element you need for construing the story. You can even imagine the guy himself.

But cutting his head gives the image more mystery. And it also puts focus on the story, not only the composition.

Cropped photo composition of a man sitting on rocks beside two bicycles

2. Arrange Your Elements for an Unconventional Shot

Forget about the rule of thirds, leading lines, and all the other rules. Work at producing a good composition based on what you feel looks best. Take your time to take creative photos.

Look at lines and shapes. Bring balance to your photography composition by how you position your camera.

Changing your point of view even a bit can alter your composition. Crouch down. Move to your left or right. Lift your camera a little higher.

I was standing for this photo of the woman (pictured below) reading the newspaper at the temple. This angle allowed me to arrange all the elements well.

My timing was also significant. When she was looking down at the newspaper, there was no flow in the photo. The composition is more engaging as she stares at something outside the frame.

black and white portrait of a woman reading a newspaper at a table
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Move In Close to Subjects and Aim Your Camera Up

Getting close to your subject and looking up can produce a dramatic composition. The closer you are, the more dramatic it can appear.

It’s easy to stand back and get an overall view of something. This perspective is not often the most creative.

Moving close to a tall subject so it towers over you gives an unusual and intriguing perspective. And using this photo composition tip can help you eliminate distracting backgrounds too.

For example, a photo of a building from this close (pictured below) makes a tight composition. It enhances our feeling of being small next to it.

Also, perspective distortion is on your side when shooting this close. It makes the composition dramatic. And it helps viewers to concentrate only on the building, without its surroundings.

Interesting photo composition of a modern office building on a clear sky background

4. Take a Bird’s Eye View

You can take a bird’s eye view and look down at your subject. Position your camera above and parallel with what you are photographing.

You don’t have to be right above your subject. But this often has more impact than if your camera is off at an angle. This is not how we view things every day.

The best tool for getting this view is a drone. You can fly high with it to show scenes no one has seen before. But you can also show subjects from closer to the ground.

Adding this composition technique creates more diversity in your shots.

Birds eye view of a roundabout in the forest shot with a drone

5. Make a Shadow the Subject of Your Composition

A photo where you include the shadow as the main subject is often interesting. Look for shapes that create eye-catching shadows. Frame them so the shadow is your primary focus.

I took this photo of a bicycle wheel and its shadow (below) without the rest of the bike. It created a unique picture.

I did not need to include the whole of my subject. It’s clear to see that it’s a bike. And incorporating the shadow creates a balance between the two elliptical shapes.

a black and white photo of a bicycle wheel and its shadow
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

6. Look at Your Subject Through a Foreground

This is best if you have one main subject. Try looking at it through something that’s in the foreground.

Using this composition tip with a portrait, you might use a tree, fence, or lattice. You can use anything as long as you can still see enough of your subject.

Be close enough to your foreground, and use a wide aperture. You want whatever is in the foreground to be out of focus. If it’s too much in focus, it will be more of a distraction than an enhancement.

Your foreground doesn’t have to be recognizable in your composition for it to work well. Sometimes the more blurred it is, the better.

In this photo of a Thai woman in traditional costume (below), I used leaves on a tree as my foreground. This is a bit different than the more classic composition rule of a frame within a frame.

A photo of a Thai woman in traditional costume framed by a tree in the foreground.
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

7. Tilt Your Camera at an Angle

You do not always need to hold your camera horizontally or vertically straight. Throw your horizon off by holding your camera at an angle.

Conventionally holding your camera might also keep distractions in the frame. So tilt it instead.

You can use this technique to exclude distracting elements from the background. And the more pronounced the angle, the less it will look like a bad composition.

Find a straight diagonal line within your composition. You can use it as an edge to your frame. This produces a more creative photo. And the viewer will know your camera angle is deliberate.

Close-up portrait of smiling woman during sunset.

8. Get Down on the Ground

Taking a worm’s eye view of the world produces interesting compositions. Not many people lie on the ground to look at things.

If you get down low to compose your image, you will provide a unique perspective of your subject.

Plus, you can make the most of an expansive foreground. This will draw the viewer’s eye to the main subject. The perspective will seem exaggerated, especially if you use a wide-angle lens.

You can make an everyday scene unique by showing it from this new angle.

Cobblestone street viewed at a low angle in the Old City of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

9. Use Repetition for More Creative Photos

When you have more subjects that are the same, use them all in your composition.

You might find it better to hide one behind the other. But don’t get stuck thinking you must show them all to take a creative composition.

By not including the whole of your subject, your photo will be more intriguing. You can build questions in the viewer’s mind if all your subject is not visible.

This way, you can enhance patterns appearing in everyday scenes. They might be visible only for a moment. But capturing them preserves a little piece of regularity.

The legs of a row of dancers in white tutu synchronized dancing on stage

10. Emphasize Your Landscape’s Foreground

Focus part of your composition in the foreground when taking a landscape photo.

Most people will aim to incorporate as much of a landscape scene as possible. Often you can make a more creative photo by including less, not more.

Look for something integral to your landscape. Get close to it and include it in an eye-catching way as the main part of your composition.

Deserts of rural landscapes can often be wide and empty. They’re often rather dull. But including an interesting foreground can create more unexpected results.

A wooden pier on a lake during a beautiful sunset

11. Use Details to Draw Attention to Your Subject

Compose images using minimal elements or small parts of elements. Only showing a small part of something can stimulate curiosity in your photo.

Don’t always show the whole elephant or all of your model. This technique is best used when shooting a series of photos of a subject. Use it to highlight unique details in your subject.

You can get very abstract with this photography composition idea. Think outside the box to incorporate or exclude parts of your subject. That way, you create a strong composition.

Detail of sunlight reflecting on small waves.

12. Create Partially Hidden Portraits

Not showing your portrait subject’s face is very abstract. But being selective in what and how much you show can produce a more creative portrait.

By hiding part of your subject, you can create a sense of mystery. Try this when you are photographing someone shy. It is a good warm-up exercise to get them to open up more.

This can also work well when you are working with different portrait props, like fans or umbrellas. Or perhaps you’re shooting in different locations. You can use architectural features like walls and doors.

Interesting photography composition idea of a beautiful thai girl with half her face covered by an umbrella
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Bonus Tip: Make Your Own Rules of Composition

You do not need to stick to any composition or photography rules. Experiment and find out what works for you. Break the rules. And make your own.

Be prepared to create some pretty weird-looking photos. Know that many times your photography composition ideas will not work.

But with a good digital workflow, you can compare your images. This will help you learn what works and what doesn’t. You will begin to enjoy using certain techniques as

As you explore different ways of composing photos. Stick with these. As you identify the results you love the most, use those more.

This can help you develop your own style, especially if you photograph the same type of subject often.

But ensure you also get some “safe” shots. Take a few photos using more conventional composition techniques. This is especially important ware taking photos for an assignment or client.

First person perspective shot from a hiker sitting at the edge of a cliff.

Conclusion: Composition Ideas (Tips for Unusual Results)

Study the work of master photographers and painters. Find artists whose work you like, especially if it is a bit abstract in nature. Ponder how they have composed some of their more unusual pieces.

Ask yourself what it is that you like about the compositions. Many times you can see patterns in how photographers compose their images.

Also, build up your own set of composition ideas and techniques. Keep the ones that create the most interesting photos and use them often. You will see your photography and composition skills improve!

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