Creative Photography: 6 Rules for Stunning Shots
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Rule One: Use light to your advantage
  2. Rule Two: Play with perspective
  3. Rule Three: Master the art of composition
  4. Rule Four: Embrace the element of surprise
  5. Rule Five: Showcase depth and dimension
  6. Rule Six: Experiment with shutter speed

When you're eager to capture that perfect shot, it's not just the subject that matters—it's how you frame it, light it, and present it that can elevate your photography from simple snapshots to striking pieces of art. It's all about understanding and applying creative photography composition rules. Let's dive into these six game-changing approaches that can transform your photos from good to great.

Rule One: Use light to your advantage

Light is the magic ingredient in every photograph. It shapes, defines, and breathes life into your images. By mastering how to use light effectively, you can add depth and drama to your photos, enhancing your creative photography composition.

Natural Light

Natural light is a gift that keeps on giving. It changes throughout the day, providing a variety of moods—from the soft, gentle light of dawn to the dramatic, golden hues of sunset. Here's how you can use natural light:

  • Golden Hour: This is the hour after sunrise or before sunset. The light during this time is warm, diffused, and directional, perfect for creating stunning portraits and landscapes.
  • Blue Hour: This is the period of twilight before sunrise and after sunset. The indirect sunlight takes on a blue hue, providing a serene, moody atmosphere for your photos.

Artificial Light

Don't let the sun dictate your shooting schedule. Artificial light sources, such as lamps, candles, or even your smartphone's flashlight, can also be a part of your creative photography composition toolkit. Here's how:

  1. Indoor Lights: Use indoor lights to create interesting shadows and highlights. Experiment with different sources—desk lamps, ceiling lights, etc.—to discover unique effects.
  2. Flashlights: A handy tool for light painting! Draw patterns in the air during a long exposure to create a vibrant, energetic image.

Remember, light is not just a tool to illuminate your subject—it's a creative element that you can manipulate to tell a story, evoke emotions, and add depth to your shots. So, next time when you're out with your camera, look at the light before you look at anything else. It's the first step in mastering the art of creative photography composition.

Rule Two: Play with perspective

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to bring a unique twist to your photographs is by altering your perspective. Playing with perspective is like looking at the world through a fresh pair of eyes. It can make the most mundane objects look fascinating and give your photos that extra edge in the creative photography composition.

High Angle Shots

A high angle shot is when you position your camera above the subject, looking down. This perspective works wonders in making scenes appear smaller or more fragile. Let's see how:

  • Landscapes: Capture a sweeping view of a landscape from a high vantage point. It gives your photo a bird's-eye view, making it seem like a miniature model.
  • Portraits: Shoot from above to emphasize the subject's features and expressions. It's a flattering angle, especially for close-ups.

Low Angle Shots

On the flip side, a low angle shot is when you position your camera below the subject, looking up. This perspective can make your subject seem larger and more imposing. Here's how:

  1. Architecture: Shoot buildings from a low angle to emphasize their height and grandeur. It gives your photo a dramatic, imposing feel.
  2. Portraits: Capture people from a low position to make them appear dominant and powerful. It's an ideal angle for full-length shots.

Don't stick to eye-level shots all the time. Try climbing a ladder, lying on the ground, or even hanging from a tree. The key is to experiment with different angles until you find that perfect perspective. Remember, creative photography composition is all about making a visual impact, and playing with perspective is a great way to achieve that. So, next time you're out shooting, don't just move your feet—move your camera too.

Rule Three: Master the art of composition

The cornerstone of any great photograph lies in its composition. Understanding and applying the creative photography composition rules can transform your images from plain to stunning. Here's a couple of composition techniques you can experiment with:

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a fundamental composition principle in photography. Here's how to use it:

  1. Gridlines: Imagine your image divided into nine equal segments by two horizontal and two vertical lines. Some cameras even come with a built-in gridline feature.
  2. Placement: Position your key elements along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. This gives your photo balance and allows the viewer's eye to wander through the image more naturally.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are a powerful visual tool. They guide the viewer's eye towards a certain point in your image. Here's how you can use leading lines:

  • Natural Lines: Use paths, rivers, or the horizon as natural leading lines. They draw the viewer's eye deeper into the landscape.
  • Architectural Lines: Use the edges of buildings, windows, and doors to lead the eye towards your subject. They create depth and perspective.

Composition is more than just arranging elements in your frame. It's about creating a visual narrative that captivates the viewer. Mastering the art of composition is a vital step in your creative photography journey. Once you get the hang of these rules, feel free to break them. After all, creativity is about bending the rules, right?

Rule Four: Embrace the element of surprise

One of the most engaging aspects of creative photography is the ability to surprise your audience. It's about finding the unexpected in the mundane, and capturing moments that tell a unique story. Here are a couple of ways to inject an element of surprise in your shots:

Capture Candid Moments

Life is full of spontaneous, unposed moments. And as a photographer, you have the unique opportunity to immortalize these fleeting snippets of time. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Be Observant: Keep an eye out for genuine emotions and interactions. A candid laugh, a pensive stare, a sudden gasp — each has the potential to add a touch of authenticity to your image.
  2. Be Ready: Always have your camera ready. You never know when a potential shot might present itself. Remember, timing is everything when it comes to candid photography.

Play with Expectations

Another way to surprise your audience is by playing with their expectations. Here's how:

  • Misdirection: Use elements in your frame to lead your viewer's eye in one direction, and then surprise them with the actual focal point somewhere else.
  • Juxtaposition: Place contrasting elements side by side. The resulting tension can create a striking and memorable image.

Embracing the element of surprise can add depth to your creative photography. It engages your viewer, prompting them to spend more time with your image, and perhaps see the world from a different perspective. So, the next time you're out with your camera, why not try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary?

Rule Five: Showcase depth and dimension

Depth and dimension are key components of a compelling photograph. They provide a sense of realism to your images, making them feel more immersive. Here's how you can incorporate depth and dimension into your creative photography:

Create Layers in Your Composition

Layering is a classic technique in painting that can also be applied in photography. It involves placing elements at different distances from the camera to create a sense of depth. Here's how:

  1. Foreground: Include elements close to the camera. This could be anything, from a field of flowers to a winding road.
  2. Middleground: This is the heart of your scene. It's where the main action takes place. Make sure it's interesting enough to hold your viewer's attention.
  3. Background: This is what lies in the distance. It could be a beautiful sunset or a mountain range. The background gives context to your image and completes the narrative.

Use Perspective and Angle

Changing your perspective or the angle from which you shoot can dramatically affect the feel of your image. Here's how:

  • Shoot from Different Heights: Try shooting from a low angle to emphasize certain elements, or from a high angle to provide an overview of the scene.
  • Use Lines: Lines in your scene, such as roads or fences, can help guide the viewer's eye and create a sense of depth.

Remember, the goal here is to create an image that feels three-dimensional, despite being presented on a two-dimensional medium. By showcasing depth and dimension in your shots, you can create a more engaging visual narrative, making your creative photography composition rules come alive.

Rule Six: Experiment with shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time your camera's shutter is open, exposing light onto the camera sensor. By experimenting with different shutter speeds, you can create unique effects in your photos, adding to the richness of your creative photography composition.

Capturing Motion with Shutter Speed

One of the most exciting ways to use shutter speed creatively is to capture motion. Here's how:

  1. Slow Shutter Speed: Use this to show motion in your photos. It's great for capturing moving water, city lights, or star trails. When using a slow shutter speed, you'll need to stabilize your camera to avoid camera shake. A tripod can be a great help here.
  2. Fast Shutter Speed: This freezes action and is perfect for high-speed sports, birds in flight, or children playing. You'll need good lighting to use a fast shutter speed effectively.

Light Painting with Shutter Speed

Another creative technique to try is light painting. This involves using a slow shutter speed and moving a light source, such as a flashlight, in front of the camera. Here's how:

  • Set Your Camera to a Slow Shutter Speed: This will allow you to capture the movement of the light source over time. The slower the shutter speed, the longer you have to create your light painting.
  • Move Your Light Source: Start moving your light source in front of the camera as soon as you press the shutter button. Think about the pattern or design you want to create before you start.

By mastering shutter speed, you can add dynamic movement and drama to your photos, pushing the boundaries of creative photography composition rules. The best part is, experimenting with shutter speed opens up a world of possibilities, so don't be afraid to have fun and try something new!

If you're looking to take your creative photography skills to the next level, check out the workshop 'Tips To Compose More Compelling Photos' by Austin James Jackson. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and tricks to help you capture stunning shots, making your photography stand out from the crowd.