When we are taking a picture of loved ones, whether it is one person or a large group, we usually have no problem composing the photo. Center the person (or people) in the frame and take the photo. Often they are standing in front of something interesting, like a famous landmark or other piece of scenery. However, those kinds of pictures are all we know how to do. If we want to make the picture more visually interesting, or when we take a picture of just scenery, we feel lost.

First, let’s talk about what composition is: it is all of the things that make up the photo. The subject, the color, the lighting. All of these things are part of the composition of any photograph. If these things are portrayed in a pleasing way, you’ll have an attractive photograph. You have probably taken a picture that was off-centered or at an odd angle. Most of the time, once you see what you have done, you are disappointed with the results.

So how can you compose a photo that is interesting and looks good? Here are some ideas for you:

Think about what you want the main focus to be. That’s where you are going to aim your camera. Sure you may be standing in front of a forest full of gorgeous trees but you still want to choose one of them to be the focal point. Our brains naturally filter out all the things that we aren’t interested in when we’re looking at something, but you don’t have that ability with a picture (until the editing process at least) so get close to the subject. Remove as much empty space as you can from the picture so that your subject is clear. If you know anything about lenses and selective focus, this is the time to use them. There is a reason you want to capture a specific view or moment in time. Make it the star of the photo.

If you find yourself always putting the subject dead center of the frame, your pictures will start to look repetitive and boring. Use a professional technique called The Rule of Thirds. You mentally divide the picture into three equal sized parts and then try to balance out the three sections. This takes a little practice.

Use lines to your advantage. Whether it is intentional or not, our eyes follow any visual lines we see. It could be a wall, a road, the side of a building. You get the idea. Use the natural lines around you to draw attention to your subject. See where your eye naturally travels and why, and use that to help you compose your picture.

Move around. Sometimes simply changing an angle can make the picture much better. For example, if you often take pictures of your kids, take some pictures from the ground. Or get down to their eye level. You would be surprised at how often this makes for a better shot.

Take more than one picture of something. Especially now that pictures are digital and you can simply erase the ones that don’t look good, there is nothing to stop you from trying different things with your pictures. Have fun with it and your pictures will be more interesting to look at.