Composition refers to the way the various elements in a scene are arranged within the frame of the image. These are not hard-and-fast rules but guidelines, or suggestions to help you. It's safe to say that these have been tried-and-tested over more than a few years to achieve more attractive compositions. Personally, I usually shoot with one these guidelines in mind as I’m waiting for the moment to capture my shot.
1. RULES OF THIRDS
The rule of thirds is applied to an imaginary dissection of your frame. By aligning a subject with the guide lines, and their intersecting points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section you create a flow for the eye viewing the image.
2. LEADING LINES
Leading lines are one of the most effective compositional tools that I like to employ. They're used to draw a viewers attention to a specific part of the frame, whether it's a person, or a vanishing point in the background of the frame - typically I will center the subject but it's not to say that it must be the case every time - placing a subject off-center is when leading lines are most effective.
Similar to leading lines you can use diagonals to create a strong impression of movement or to create a tremendous sense of depth. I like to use them to create a dynamic framing in the image more than anything else. It's a non-linear way of drawing attention to your subject that makes it feel more dynamic too.
This technique of drawing attention to the subject of your image by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene is great for leading the eye. There are obvious ways to frame your subject and there are subtle ways - the obvious will usually present itself bluntly.
5. FIGURE TO GROUND
Figure–to-ground organisation plays on perceptual grouping - which is a vital necessity for recognising objects through vision. What you're essentially doing is creating identity for the the subject from the background. It's the interrelation between foreground and background that creates the dynamic here so you can present your figure behind a fence in the foreground or rising from the smoke in the background.
6. FILL THE FRAME
The frame refers to the edges of your photograph or the edges of the viewfinder of your camera when you are shooting (usually you'll be seeing the frame that you are capturing through some kind of device). The advice to fill the frame means to get in close, make your subject fill a significant portion of the final image.
7. CENTER DOMINANT EYE
Rather than just placing your subject in the dead-center of your image; offset the subject a little, placing the dominant eye in the center of the photo. This is the technique that will give the impression that the eyes follow you.
8. PATTERNS AND REPITITION
When it comes to capturing repetition in photography a couple of techniques come to mind – you can either emphasize it or break it. There are interesting patterns everywhere - many of which we overlook due to the business of our days. Once you get an eye for spotting them (and it takes intentional practice) you can incorporate them into your photography in radical ways.
9. CENTERED-COMPOSITION & SYMMETRY
Basically the line of symmetry divides your image down the middle into two similar, or exactly mirror, halves. I like to toy with this concept in documenting live shows, and often, in nature or architecture it presents itself quite nicely. Keep in mind that you have two centers to toy with so always remember that reflections present an opportunity to create symmetry as well.
Colour is one of the most obvious elements in a photo. You can obviously pop intense colours in an image to make people take notice of it. Colour also sets the mood of an image - there's psychology in colour theory that is worth exploring. That being said, it's quite easy to find backdrops in your daily commute that you can use to frame a subject or create a bold contrast in composing an image.
11. BREAK THE RULES
This is obvious. None of these tips are hard-and-fast rules. They're supposed to give you and inclination of where to begin - what you can do if you're hitting a block. Always express yourself in the way that you feel best suited to your style. While these tips do act a pretty comprehensive backbone there is no reason that you must abide by them in your quest to create an image. There are no unbreakable rules when it comes to how you should compose your photographs.