Composition Techniques For Stunning Nature Photos

Photography is an art form, so, being able to compose a gorgeous image is a matter of taste. There are endless ways that you can use composition when you take landscape photographs. 

Composition Techniques For Stunning Nature Photos

Luckily, some rules help us keep on track when it comes to composing landscape photographs, many of which apply to a majority of situations. These rules regarding landscape composition are something of a starting point, however. 

With these rules serving as a foundation on how to begin, you can build up your own interpretations and styles when it comes to taking beautiful landscape photographs. 

As well as this, there are plenty of techniques you can use as well, to help you build a new style and visual image. This is especially useful for beginners who may otherwise be a bit stuck on where to begin. 

Stay with us today, and we will teach you everything there is to know about how to compose and use techniques, so you take jaw-dropping nature photos. 

The Rules Of Composition In Landscape Photography

It is reasonable that the rules of composition are the most useful to those who are only just starting as nature photographers.

However, for some experienced photographers, they can also be a well-needed opportunity to reflect on photography styles. 

Of course, not all nature photography is landscapes, but a great deal of it is, and even for nature photography that is not landscape, the rules of composition can be applied or used as guidelines.

The Rule Of Thirds

This is a super simple rule. As you peer through the lens, imagine a grid made up of 9 rectangles, and try to take the photo so that the primary points are on the lines.

It can work even better if you have them at a point where 2 lines come together. 

When you follow this rule, it is best to aim for the bottom on the horizon to be on the top or bottom of the middle line, with a focus on the top left or right. 

A secondary point should have this positioned opposite this, making a sort of diagonal symmetry that can add depth to the image. It sounds complex at first, however, it is simple, which backs up the proverb that less is more. 

The Golden Spiral & The Golden Ratio

This is often seen in nature, and it is often used by us, whether we are aware of it or not, in art dating and architecture. When we have key elements in a building, photograph, or painting, they are often very aesthetically pleasing. 

The numerical value of the Golden Ratio was established by Fibonacci, who wanted to find a mathematical explanation for what made art and design so pleasing. 

He proposed that if we started with a rectangle with dimensions in Golden ratio, and then cut a square off of one end, then this would give us a second rectangle.

Therefore, this rectangle would be split into a square and another smaller rectangle, and so on.

The spiral is then found when you connect the corners of all the squares to create a perfect spiral of vision points that are aesthetically pleasing.

The big issue with this in modern photography is that most digital cameras have a frame dimension of 3:2. 

3:2 is not a rectangle, so it is not 100% perfect. However, it is still possible to make it work. Try placing the horizon on the most dominant horizontal line, making it the focal point of the image.

Diagonals & Lead-In Lines

Lead-in lines, as well as diagonals, are another way of attracting attention around the image. In essence, the more of the image we are guided around, the more interest there is. 

Lead-in lines function better if they connect the foreground with the background. An example would be that a river should end in frame, or turn and come back in. 

Walls, roads, rivers, and so on can all lead vision to a picture. With a slow shutter speed on waves, it can also create very pleasing images in image corners. 

Diagonals or lead-ins are not always just for the foregoing, if you use a slower shutter speed on the sky, it can simulate cloud movement, and if there is a cloud with diagonal shapes, this is even better!

Top Techniques For Landscape Photography 

Using compositional techniques can have your master landscape photography. These top techniques will give you a better idea of how you can master landscape and nature photography to make every shot beautiful! 

1. Make Use Of A Focal Point Or Specific Subject

The focal point, or subject of interest is what will draw your viewers’ attention. A focal point is probably the most important factor.

When you are presented with a beautiful natural scene, take the time to focus on which subject inside your frame should be. 

It can help to imagine you are standing before a platform, but you want to take a photo of only what is on the platform, and not the whole stage. This would mean you would need something that will draw attention.

Everywhere in nature is full of amazing focal points, but if you need some suggestions consider mountains, standalone trees, points of bright sunlight, waterfalls, lakes, colorful plants, animals, and so on.

2. Use Leading Lines For A Visual Flow

Remember we spoke about lead-in lines well they can be amazing to help direct attention to the photo, almost crafting a story. Leading lines can also help you to create depth in pictures.

They do this by catching the eye and leading the viewer into the image, but there needs to be something eye-catching that does this. 

Straight lines can be best for this, as they are often the most eye-catching, however, S-shaped curves can be great also, but you must ensure that these lines do not lead the vision out of the image. 

When using lead-in lines make sure that the lines that lead the eye into the picture do not lead the viewer to an empty horizon. This can be boring, if they lead to a focal point this is much better.

3. Use Brightness & Contrast For Effect

In nature, some of the best photos are the ones that capture (see also: Techniques For Capturing Stunning Planet Photos)your eye immediately. The human eye is most drawn to areas with the most brightness, or the most contrast.

So, if you have a subject on a very bright background, this can create contrast and will steal away the viewers’ attention. 

Note, there is such a thing as too much contrast though, and if this happens, parts of the image could end up fighting for the most attention. Less is more, you don’t want an image to be too busy. 

4. Remember The Importance Of Balance

Balance is another critically important part of image composition in nature photography (see also “Best Lenses For Nature Photography“). By this, we mean visual balance in the image.

This means that the elements inside the image are distributed evenly so that they craft a feeling of satisfaction and not chaos when seen. 

If you do not balance out the elements in a frame then you may have some parts which feel empty, and others that feel chaotic and loaded.

Simply imagine the image as being weighted by its frame, if there is too much on the left it will unbalance the right.

5. Always Keep The Elements Inside The Frame

Finally, you need to keep all the elements on an image in the frame, when considering what you want to include in the frame, ensure you do not allow them to be too close to the edges. 

Allow all elements in an image some space. Too often when an image has some elements cut off at the edges, it creates a sense of unease, or being ‘unfinished’ for the viewer’.

When taking a nature photo, think of it like a portrait image, you wouldn’t cut out someone’s arms, legs, or forehead from an image, so do not allow this to happen in nature photos either. 

Always look at the image in the view mode in your camera, sometimes it works well to use this in the place of the viewfinder, so you can get a real feeling of what the final image will look like.

You can also pay attention to the little details of the image, which you may not notice using the viewfinder.


These are all the techniques and rules you need to get started on taking beautiful nature photography. Nature is full of beauty and endless landscapes filled with things that make us gawk in awe and wonder. 

Being able to take timeless photos of the marvels of our natural world is a talent and one that you can easily learn if you make use of a few rules of composition and our techniques. 

Laura McNeill
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