Photo Composition – Lessons 5 & 6


We’re learning how to use a DSLR camera by following lessons on This month’s assignments were about Photo Composition.

This past month, the Photo Ladies wrapped up our free photography lessons on by focusing on photo composition and learning how to take beautiful photos that convey a story. Life with a four year old and a 17-month old keeps me very busy, but I love to be our family historian and capture their life moments in my photos. 

About The Photo Ladies

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If it weren’t for the Photo Ladies, I’d keep the new Nikon D3200 DSLR camera I got for my birthday a few months ago in auto-mode. Thankfully, being part of this group continues to hold me accountable to improve my photography skills and learn how to actually use the camera well.

If you’re just joining us now, The Photo Ladies is a group started by Teresa at Crafty Wife. “The Photo Ladies” is a group for people who want to learn and grow in our photography endeavors together. The Photo Ladies have been following free photography lessons for DSLR cameras on (as of March 16, 2019 this site is no longer available). Each month, we’ve gone through one or more lessons. At the end of each lesson, we get an assignment and post our results on Flickr. The members of the group have been able to comment and give each other feedback so we learn from one another.

The Photo Ladies

Our May Lessons: Photo Composition

In our latest lessons on, we’ve been learning about photo composition. For more specifics, you can read the lessons on

  • How to Compose a Photograph
  • 5 Rules of Photography Composition

Assignment 5: How to Compose a Photograph

In this lesson from, we learned about three essential guidelines to help us compose beautiful photos:

  1. Great photos tell a story. A photo should be focused on one main concept or idea. As the photographer, you should be mindful about the story you’re trying to convey through your photo.
  2. Emphasize your story. The photo should be focused on the main subject and intentionally emphasize the elements of the story you want to convey.
  3. Simplify your scene. Remove or minimize any elements that distract or take away from the main subject. Often the background is the issue and needs to be removed, cropped or blurred to simplify the photo.

Our assignment was to set our cameras to any priority-mode we wanted and take photos while keeping these three guidelines in mind. With Mother’s Day this month and C1 turning four, I’ve had numerous opportunities to tell stories through my photos. In the example I’ll share for this assignment, I was trying to capture a tender moment between my sons. Our four year old was trying unsuccessfully to lead our 17-month old on a walk across the lawn. In doing so, the boys were holding hands, so I wanted to convey a story of brotherly love. In the original photo, you can see my husband off to the side, my nephew flying a kite and a neighbor’s home.

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

ISO 1600, f/22, 1/320 sec

When I cropped the photo to emphasize the boys more and remove the distracting background, you see the simple moment I wanted to capture showing carefree love between brothers on a summer day.

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

 ISO 1600, f/22, 1/320 sec

Assignment 6: Five Rules of Photography Composition

The 5 rules of photography composition builds upon the 2nd guideline in our previous assignment: Emphasize your story. You can emphasize your subject and better convey your story by using one or more of these five rules.

  1. Dominant Subject Rule – Center your main subject in the photo and make it fill the frame.
  2. Rule of Thirds – Centering your main subject all the time can get boring. The Rule of Thirds means you mentally divide your photo into thirds horizontally and vertically. You then place your subject off center where the imaginary lines intersect.  
  3. Focus on Your Main Subject – Use a shallow depth of field to put the focus on your main subject and blur the background. This will isolate the main subject and draw more attention to it.
  4. Frame Your Subject – Use environmental elements to create a frame within your photo. Place your main subject inside the frame within the frame.
  5. Use Contrast to Emphasize Your Subject – Use color, texture and/or shape to differentiate your main subject from other elements in the photo. 

Our assignment was to take photos with these five rules in mind, using more than one rule whenever possible. For this assignment I chose to use my son’s red soccer ball on the green grass to provide a high level of color contrast in my photos. The smooth texture of the ball against grass or other environmental elements also adds to the contrast. (Rule #5 Use Contrast to Emphasize Your Subject)

In my first photo, the soccer ball is centered and fills the frame. (Rule #1: Dominant Subject Rule)

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

ISO 100, f/8, 1/320 sec

In my second photo, the soccer ball is placed off-center at the intersection of the horizonal and vertical lines. This adds a little more interest to the photo of a boring old soccer ball, like it’s about to be kicked! (Rule #2: Rule of Thirds)

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

ISO 100, f/8, 1/320 sec

In my third photo, I set the aperture to f/3.5 to create a shallow depth of field and a blurred background. (Rule #3: Focus on Your Main Subject)

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/1,000 sec

In my fourth photo, the soccer ball is nestled amongst the tall grasses in one of my flower beds. The tall grasses act as a frame within the frame of my photo. (Rule #4 Frame Your Subject)

Photo Composition - Lessons 5 & 6  -

ISO 1600, f/8, 1/4,000 sec

Additional Photography Lessons – Camera Lenses and Histograms

This month, the Photo Ladies also studied the effects of different types of camera lenses and their focal lengths. In addition, we learned how to read histograms to understand the distribution of brightness in an image. You can read about these lessons on

  • Understanding Camera Lenses
  • How to Read a Histogram

Join the Photo Ladies

You can see all the photos from our assignments in the Photo Ladies group on Flickr. Although this was our last lesson on, Teresa at Crafty Wife is getting ready to start an entirely new round of photo challenges for the summer. If you’d like to join the Photo Ladies, visit Crafty Wife for more details.

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What’s Next?

While you’re here, be sure to check out these great ways to take and display your photos on Ideas for the Home by Kenarry® –

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    1. Thanks, Teresa! I appreciate your kind words — and all the time and effort you’ve put into coordinating our group this spring!

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