LOGIN/SIGN UP function is disabled for upgrade and maintenance. It will resume on 22/01/2022 10.30 AM SGT. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Simple But Essential Compositions (Part 2):Centre Composition & Diagonal Composition

When starting out in photography, mastering the basic compositions is a shortcut to improving your photos. Continuing on from the Rule of Thirds Composition and Rule of Quarters Composition that I covered in Part 1, this time let's try to master the Centre Composition and Diagonal Composition, which I will explain about with the help of several photos. (Reported by studio9)

Centre Composition: Should be used with care and in moderation

Of the 4 compositions that beginners should start off learning, this third one can leave beginners in tears: The (in) famous Centre Composition. As the name suggests, the subject is placed at the centre in Centre Composition.

It is a very simple composition, and yet can be quite difficult to take good photos with. The photo of the pigeon used to explain the Rule of Thirds Composition in Part 1 is also an example of this.

What makes the Centre Composition so difficult is that it is hard to move your line of sight away from the centre. Thus, when the main subject is placed in the centre, it isn’t clear where the photographer should move their line of sight to next when shooting, resulting in unsatisfactory photos with a lot of unused space in the surroundings.

Therefore, when using Centre Composition to take shots, you need to make it simple so that your line of sight doesn't have to move from the centre.

Let's look at an example of this.

In this photo, I simply captured the subject right smack in the middle. By doing so, you won't get confused as to where to look.

Capturing photos in this way is also effective in maintaining the horizontal and vertical symmetry. However, it is important that the subject takes up the entire photo.

Because we are using Centre Composition, placing a round subject in the centre of the photo doesn't look strange.

We can also use a bokeh effect in this way to guide the line of sight to the centre. By the way, this is the centre of a lily.

There might be a limit to the types of scenes this can be used for, but using the bokeh effect in the foreground surrounding the main subject is a good way to guide the line of sight to the centre.

All of the photos that I took here were captured simply. In this way, even beginners can make use of the frustratingly difficult Centre Composition.

However, do note that with the Centre Composition, if the main subject itself does not have a certain degree of impact, the result will be not quite up to par regardless of how well the photo was taken.

Diagonal Composition: Imparts a sense of motion

The final basic composition I will introduce is Diagonal Composition. While the other 3 compositions are suitable for subjects placed horizontally or vertically, subjects placed diagonally should be shot using Diagonal Composition.

By placing a subject diagonally, you can create depth in the photo, and express a sense of movement. Let's try various techniques to place a subject diagonally, such as finding a subject that is at an angle, changing the angle of the shot, or even tilting the camera.

In this example, I took a shot of a rock face jutting out over the sea. With the calm sea in the background, and a rock face protruding boldly in the foreground (which I placed in the upper right of the photo), the photo captures a sense of movement, while the shape of the rock face gives a slightly rugged feel to the image.

The cherry trees here might not look like anything special, but by placing the clear blue sky above the diagonal line, to the upper left, this creates the impression of the cherry trees stretching upwards to reach the sky.

Here I captured shiny bottles on the diagonal against a dark background. You can see this gives the photo depth!
Incidentally, I placed the bottles using the Rule of Quarters, which also imparts a sense of stability.

I placed the stone steps leading to the shrine at an angle, and was able to create depth for this photo as well.
I also used the Rule of Quarters here, positioning the shrine on the intersecting points of the gridlines.

In this way, Diagonal Composition can be used to exude a sense of depth and motion for subjects that are placed at an angle. For even better results, you can use Diagonal Composition in combination with the Rule of Thirds or Rule of Quarters!

Summary of the 4 basic compositions

In this article, together with Part 1, I explained the 4 basic compositions.
To recap, the 4 basic compositions are as follows:

・Rule of Thirds Composition
・Rule of Quarters Composition
・Centre Composition
・Diagonal Composition

When you start out in photography, it is best to learn these compositions in the order listed above. Once you are used to them, you should be able to instinctively apply the appropriate composition, whether it be the Rule of Thirds or Diagonal Composition, to your shots.

You may be wondering if all good photos have to fit the above types of compositions, but that is not true. At the end of the day, if you feel good about the image you see through the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, then that is the correct composition.

Think of the basic compositions that I have explained here as guidelines to shooting images that make you think, “That’s great!” It can sometimes be interesting to try something that goes against the norm.

Before that though, why not familiarise yourself with the basic compositions above, take loads of pictures, and discover your own style?




A photography website established in Japan in 2011. With the slogan “Bringing photography closer to you”, the site provides content that is useful for everyone who enjoys photography. Besides web content, studio9 also conducts seminars and workshops.