Photography

Photographic Composition: 9 Basic Principles You Should Know

Derio Ilari tells you how to achieve stunning photos for a professional Instagram profile

Many people believe, to capture a great photo, you need great equipment and editing skills. However, you can be a master of post production and not get a single good photo if you don’t pay attention to the composition.

Derio Ilari (@derioi) is a product photographer who has worked with brands like Adidas, Audi, Volkswagen, Guaraná and, Stella Artois, among many more. His incredible catalog shows his talent and artistic sensibility. Photos have always been the medium he has best expressed himself with and the composition is the essence of each of his images. Here he shares what to consider when taking professional photos for Instagram.

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Derio Ilari

The secret nobody tells: composition

Composition is an indispensable tool for transmitting a message, making sense of your image and planting an unconscious message for whoever sees your work. That’s why, to compose well, you need to have your intention clear before you start.

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Derio Ilari

The 9 composition elements

Behind every photo, there is a complex process that helps convey the message, the language of the photography. For Derio, although there are certain theories of composition, it’s important to know there are no established rules: you’ve got to feel free to experiment with new elements to take powerful and attractive photos.

- The point: while often round, this could be any element that marks a point from which to start reading the image. This compositional element does not have to be the focal point.

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In this image, the moon is a clear starting point from which to read the image
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In this photo, the cat works as the point of the composition

- The line: creates visual markers to guide the perspective towards the subject. They can be straight or curved.

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Lines converging towards centre

- Contours: are borders that direct and frame the subject or central message of your composition. They can be made from any kind of shape or even with light and shade.

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Here, the contours are the small, out of focus, flowers that drive our view towards the subject

- Tone: is the difference in color, light, and shade that separates the subject from the background to give the image depth.

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Contrast helps identify the subject: the person’s shadow

- Direction: where the elements of the image flow to. It helps to communicate movement. Lines, subject, and tone help establish where the image goes to.

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The bridge’s lines and dog mark the direction of the composition

- Texture: creates a pattern that makes photos "visually tactile". It works well for landscapes and photos of animals and food.

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This element gives a new sensorial dimension to photos

- Scale: determines the size of a photo’s elements and can be used to contrast references, which helps the viewer work out the proportions each part of the composition.

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The person helps show the size of the tunnel

- Space: can be positive or negative; there are elements of a photo that give volume, and others that give space. Both help to balance a composition.

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Empty space on the left side and above compensate for the greater number of trees on the right

- Colors: carry different psychological weight, you can use this to strengthen your message.

Color also has an aesthetic function, getting to know the chromatic wheel and the best color combinations will help you exploit this both when taking the photo or in post. The wheel shows you which colors best complement each other, through contrast or similarity, as shown in the graphs below:

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Derio Ilari
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Derio Ilari

If you want to know more about professional photography, try the Photo Composition and Editing for Instagram course in which Derio Ilari will guide you through the basic concepts and practical tips that will turn your social media into an attractive space filled with applied creativity. Follow him on Instagram and get to know his work.

You may be interested in:

- Domestika Diaries: Joel Santana.
- Artistic Photomontage Tutorial: How to Create a Narrative.
- Photography Tutorial: How to Make a Pinhole Camera at Home.

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