Nine rules for taking the perfect photograph

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There’s no easy way to produce a photographic masterpiece. However, there are certain rules which can bring you closer to one. Steve McCurry, an acknowledged genius behind the lens who has worked for National Geographic and who took the famous ’Afghan girl’ photo, knows them all. Using examples of his own work, he demonstrates that, provided you stick to the fundamental principles of composition, you can take a beautiful shot easily enough.

The rule of thirds

Place important parts of the shot along lines, and the most important parts at the points where these lines intersect.

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Leading lines

Use the natural lines available in the shot to focus the attention of the viewer.

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Diagonal lines

Correctly chosen diagonal lines give dynamism to the picture.

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Framing

Make use of natural frames and borders in the shot, such as windows and doors.

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Figures vs. background

Find the contrast between the object of the photo and the background.

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Fill the frame

Get up close to the person you’re taking a shot of.

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Dominant eyes

Place the right or left eye at the centre of the composition. This gives the impression that the subject’s eyes are following you.

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Patterns and repetition

It’s certainly pleasant to observe patterns in a photo. But it’s even better if patterns are interrupted — this gives some contrast to the shot.

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Symmetry

The harmony between two halves is always pleasing to the eye.

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Photographs: Steve McCurry

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