Woman in Heian Period costume, Festival of the Ages, Kyoto, Japan. Taken for a series on Japan for ‘Life’, 1963, Brake, Brian (1927–1988), Kyoto. Gift of Wai Man Lau, 2010. Te Papa

Photographic composition 

In photography, composition refers to the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work, as distinct from the subject of a work.

Some of the main elements are described in the following tips, together with images demonstrating the different effects they create. Try them out and see how you can improve your own photographs. Discover how Brian Brake approached composition in creating his images by looking at selected works in Collections Online.  

  1. Fill the frame 
  2. Create space
  3. Leading lines
  4. Apply framing
  5. Make a focal point
  6. Apply the rule of thirds
  7. Use colour to create mood
  8. Use complementary and contrasting colours to create specific effects
  9. Black and white photography