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9 Tips for Composing the Perfect Picture

From the Rule of Thirds to symmetry, Steve McCurry's photos show you how you step up your photography game.
Photos by Steven McCurry, screencaps via

Photojournalist Steve McCurry, who is most famous for his piercing portrait of the Afghan Girl, featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine, is a master at capturing a story in a single photograph. Using his body of work for reference, the Cooperative of Photography has created a simple how-to video to teach budding and expert photographers alike to compose an image as McCurry does. The video takes viewers on a journey from the Rule of Thirds and framing, through pattern-spotting and more.


Here are the nine composition tips they gathered from studying McCurry's works:

1. Rule of Thirds

Place points of interest on the intersections and important elements along the lines.

2. Leading Lines

Use natural lines to lead eyes into the picture.

3. Diagonals

Diagonal lines create great movement.

4. Framing

Use natural frames like windows and doors.

5. Figure to Ground

Find a contrast between subject and background.

6. Fill the Frame

Get close to your subjects.

7. Center Dominant Eye

Place the dominant eye in the center of the photo.

8. Patterns and Repetition

Patterns are aesthetically pleasing. But the best is when the pattern is interrupted.

9. Symmetry

Symmetry is pleasing to the eye.

Visit the Cooperative of Photography website for more skill-sharpening tutorials.

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