I have heard it said, “if you want to become a good photographer, you have to take 10,000 pictures”. And may I add, if you want to become a good photographer, while you are taking those 10,000 photos, make sure you are practicing and learning how to take pictures, not just snapshots.

branches cold conifers environment
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you go out for a walk in your neighborhood, could you find any photos to take? When I go for a walk, I am looking for photo opportunities everywhere. I don’t think my family likes walking with me, because I am always stopping to take a picture of something.

In order to FIND a photo to take, I think the most important thing to learn is:

Know the rules to composition.
Photo by Lanny Cottrell – You have to see the leading lines in a photo.

Memorize the rules of composition. Every time I go out for a walk, I see the rules of composition right in front of me. Can you see the leading lines? How about the rule of thirds? Can you take a photo and put it in the “thirds” format? Do you know the rule of space? Rule of odds? And also, do not put your horizon down the middle of your photo. And finally, can you see patterns?

Let’s go through these rules one by one, and give you an example. Then if you want to master this process of “seeing a photo”, it will be because you have memorized composition rules, and now you recognize them when you see it.

Leading lines:
Photo by Lanny Cottrell – See the “leading lines” in this photo? There are several leading lines in this

In this night photo above, you can see the lines from the fence, the sidewalk, the road, the line down the roads. This one is easy to see. Look for those lines. One thing in general with this, is you don’t want the lines to be straight down the middle or go from side to side. They most generally need to go diagonally.

Photo by Lanny Cottrell – These leading lines go right down the middle.

Can leading lines go down the middle, or from side to side? Hey! Some rules are meant to be broken. As in the photo above, how often do you have a clear shot of a very straight highway as far as the eye can see? So take it, if it tells a good story.

Rule of thirds:
Photo by Lanny Cottrell – The idea of “put the subject in the third part of your frame” is so spot on.

I could have put that sign and seagull right in the middle, but, this looks so much better. This one takes practice. But, once you take some photos, and notice your subject is right in the middle, you will recognize that it doesn’t look right.

Rule of Space:
sea dawn nature sky
Photo by Nuno Obey on Pexels.com

If this boat was moving, you need to give it somewhere to move into. So leave some space in front of the boat. If this boat was more to the left, it would actually look awkward. This is just a function of the brain.

light landscape sky sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This photo of the cat, is another great example of giving “space”. The cat is looking into an area that might have something. Our brain would feel the photo to be really awkward if the cat was on the other side of the photo. Is this photo also a “rule of thirds”? Yes, I believe so, as long as you put it in the correct quadrant of the photo.

Rule of odds:
Photo by Lanny Cottrell – Rule of “odds”

This particular rule is sometimes impossible to get, but the idea is that put your subjects in odd numbers. Like 3 flowers, instead of 2 flowers. Or 5 buffalo, instead of 4. As you take pictures of multiple subjects, now you know the rule, you will look for that.

alphabet blur board game business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Rule of odds worked on this one: there is 5 subjects.

pattern formation wild animals south africa
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Rule of “Odds”. Here is a great example: in your mind, take out of the giraffes. Then put it back in. See how much nicer 3 look than 2. Hard to do all the time, but, you will have more people like your photos if you can do odd numbers.

Look for patterns:
Photo by Lanny Cottrell

Is this a photo of patterns? Well yes, a forest is a pattern of trees. They look good like a forest, which falls under the “pattern” rule.

sliced orange fruits
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

In “patterns”, you look for a type of photo that most likely takes up the whole picture with a large quantity of the same thing, like above.

So a forest is a good pattern, and a cluster of fruit slices falls under this category.

Here is one more example of “Pattern” in a photo. Can you see it if you were walking around your neighborhood?

Put your Horizon in the third part of your photo.
Photo by Lanny Cottrell – Rule of horizon in the right place.

The “horizon” is basically where the ground meets the sky. Look at this photo above, and even though the photo seems to be about boats in storage, notice that the ground and the sky meet at about the lower 1/3 of the photo.

Photo by Lanny Cottrell

This photo is the most spectacular with lots of sky. So, in this case the horizon is in the lower third. If you put the horizon in the top third, you would get more water, but, isn’t the sky more spectacular?


You have to memorize these basic rules of composition, or you will never see the photo opportunities around you. Practice walking around the neighborhood and see if you can see any of these rules of composition to take pictures. Once you memorize these rules, and take more pictures, the closer you get to the 10,000 photos you need to take before you are good.

Here’s just a few more photos, using the rules of composition:

Leading lines
Horizon in lower third
Rule of odds (3 buffalo, not 2)

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