Elements of a Great Photo

There are many theories and elements that go into composing the perfect image. From the outside it’s easy to think that it is about being in the right place, at the right moment and clicking away. Making a masterpiece is much more than simply pointing and shooting. When looking from an artistic point of view, many of the classical elements and principles of design can be applied to photography. In this post, we review some key elements to creating a great photo.

Somewhere - Thierry Bornier - Landscape Photography


Lines help to define the image and the shapes that are in it. There is no “right line” in terms of orientation or length. They can be horizontal – vertical – long or short. Beyond helping to define shapes, lines can also contribute emotions and movement to the image. For example, thick vertical lines portray a dominant, strong presence whereas a curved or “S” line is softer and unhurried feeling.

Lines also help to lead the viewer’s eye through a photograph. Whenever you’re looking to shoot, examine the lines your frame. Lines are commonly occurring in cities and in nature- the horizon, hills, rivers, sky scrapers, bridges, trees, streets… It’s all about identifying them and seeing what message you want to portray with your image.


Composition is the essence of how a photo is put together. One of the most famous rules is the rule of thirds. There are countless right (and wrong) ways to compose an image, however one thing holds true – the right composition can make a good photo great. Photographers can play around with frame depth, subject alignment and distance.

When taking your next shot, try to think about the foreground, middle ground and background and what elements you want your image to capture and share.

Labyrinth - Thierry Bornier - Xiapu China - AquaFarming - Seaweed Farms - Chinese Culture

Texture – Patterns

Patterns and textures a a similar concept. They are some of the most emotional elements of a photo. How do they differ? A texture is something less repetitive such as a wood’s grain or a field of grass. A pattern is something creates a repeating visual with a feeling of rhythm. Some photographers add an element of surprise by breaking the pattern or texture with a standout focal point such as a contrasting color or something unexpected.

One major influence on the ability to portray the full emotion of a pattern or texture is how light plays off of it.

The Smugglers of the Mist - Thierry Bornier - Chinese Fishermen - Mood Photography - Landscape Photography


Light is a fundamental element of a photograph for its ability to add mood. Light can create dynamic lines and emotions with its brightness and shadows. Things like the brightness, direction and quality are all factors to be aware of when using it in your photography.

God's Palette - Hani Rice Terraces - Thierry Bornier - Landscape Photography - Chinese Landscapes


Color is much like light in the sense that it adds a moody and emotional element to photographs. Colors are known for their ability to evoke various emotions, those of which can be transferred into your image. When planning for your shot, keep these associations in mind to help create the final piece.

Look with your Heart

This is Thierry’s number one element to any photo practice – look with your heart not just your eyes. You can have the best camera with the angles, colors, light, etc perfect, however if you’re not taking the image with your heart behind it, chances are it’s not going to be a “hit”. Don’t be afraid to take that extra moment to readjust and make sure the elements, emotions and heart is just right before capturing the shot.


1 comment(s)

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