7 Basic Elements of Photography

Image Credit: Photography taken by Mario Gutiérrez./Moment/GettyImages

Photography is more than an art. It's a skill. Professional photographers take time to study and learn their art, learning exactly what is required to take an eye-catching photo. There are seven elements of photography that break down each of the things a true artist should focus on, and they are: line, shape, form, texture, pattern, color and space. Each brings its own unique quality to a picture.

Elements of Photography

The seven basic elements of photography – line, shape, form, texture, pattern, color and space – all refer to the way you set up your photo. Composition helps you represent any of these elements in the way you choose.

  • Line ­– Can be vertical, horizontal, curved or jagged. Examples: roads, sunsets, bridges.
  • Shape ­– Two-dimensional representation of objects. Examples: silhouetted photographs of birds.
  • Form – Three-dimensional representation of objects, usually through the use of lighting and shadows.
  • Texture – The use of lighting to bring out details of an object, making it easy to see whether a surface is smooth or soft.
  • Pattern – The use of repetition to create an interesting photo. Examples: photos of gardens or flowers.
  • Color – Using warm or cool colors to set a mood.
  • Space – Either negative or positive space can be used to make a statement. Often seen when using the rule of thirds.

The Rule of Thirds

The best way to illustrate one of the most popular photography composition techniques, the rule of thirds, is to put a nine-square grid over a photo. You would break an image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, arriving at nine segments total. If you place the most interesting element of your photos along one of those lines, your photo will naturally be well-composed, based on the general rules of form photography.

Lighting and Composition for Photography

The seven basic elements of photography all come down to lighting and composition. New photographers focus on these two items most. There are many photography composition techniques in addition to the rule of thirds, including symmetry, which utilizes tricks like reflections to make an otherwise ordinary photo more interesting, and depth, which combines the foreground and background in interesting ways to bring an image to life. Another important form in photography is "shooting light." That means looking for the way the light hits objects and featuring that in your photo. As you begin to play with these seven elements of photography, these professional techniques can take you from photographer to photographic artist.

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