9 Rules of Shot Composition

“Shot Composition is the strategic arrangement of elements in a photo or video frame.”

Freeze from our tutorial below, showing the 3/4 1/5 principle in LIGHTING.

What is shot composition? I googled it and found there is no formal definition, only confusion…

Definition 1 – composition refers to the frame of the image and how the elements of the mise-en-scène appear in it. Composition guidelines must be observed when telling stories visually, as in filmmaking.

Definition 2 – The phrase “shot composition” refers to the art and practice of arranging the visual elements on the screen so that they communicate your intended message clearly.

Definition 3 – how to arrange things in your shot, and how to make them look natural, formal, wacky or scary.

I don’t think any of those are simple or clear enough, so I’ll give it a shot:

Shot Composition is the strategic arrangement of elements in a photo or video frame.

Freeze from video below that explores 9 rules of shot composition.

I say ‘strategic’ because you have to favour certain tactics over others, and which tactics you favour impacts your style. Some people do symmetrical frames a lot, some people swear by bokeh, while others forbid it entirely. What is important is you pick a couple tactics, master them, and run with them consistently. Dabble here and there too much, and you dilute your shooting style. Instagram is full of artists who constrain themselves to just a couple composition tactics – and almost always, this adds to the charm and quality of their work.

Freeze from the video, showing the rule of LEADING LINES in action.

In the video below, we explore 9 rules, or tactics, you can use in your shot composition strategy. It does not matter if you’re video or photo, these rules apply evenly. These are, in no particular order:

1 – Symmetry

2 – Depth

3 – Balance

4 – Leading Lines

5 – Separation

6 – Lighting

7 – Depth of Field

8 – Perspective

9 – Rule of 3rds

10 – Parallax – We also explore this 10th bonus rule for only video shooters

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The AI plugin that edits while you shoot

Hopefully this information helps you build your voice as a shooter. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Patiently see which rules you are best at, then expand on them and master them. Soon, you’ll have a distinctive style people will recognize and follow.

Any rules you can think of that we didn’t mention? Add them to the comments.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the video!

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