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Important Photography Guidelines Designers Don't Care About But Should

You may think that photography is just for people with cameras, that it has nothing to do with web design at all. At times, you heavily rely on illustrations, or, if needed, run to the caring shoulders of stock photos.

But I’m telling you right now, photography and web design are closely related. In fact, most web designers ignore the fact that they need photography to make their work look better.

Many web designers are oblivious of the truth that some websites look better with photographs rather than illustrations.

Why would I want to care about this?

Knowing the difference between good and bad photography will help you make your design more appealing. Think of this: you are designing a website, some photos were given to you to choose from so you can attach one of them as a header image.

Because you just don’t care about photography guidelines, you just choose that poorly-shot photo out of the blue. The result? A poorly designed website.

Of course, you would want to make your design better. To do so, you have to be capable of identifying which photo should be used and which one is not going to make the cut.

Here in this article, I will be teaching you to use  how to use photography in the right way for your web design.

Let me just remind you that these are guidelines. Some of them may contradict each other. The best thing to do here is to understand each guideline and see how each works with the others.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most recognized photography guidelines. According to the rule, an image is basically divided into nine equal segments running through two vertical and two horizontal lines. The most important elements should be placed along those lines or where points intersect.

Have you ever wondered why your Instagram camera feature has grids? Those are for you to place your elements using the Rule of Thirds.

Applying this rule can make a pleasant looking and balanced image composition.

Here are a few other things you need to know:

  • You can place the subject in the left or right. Centering the subject isn’t always beautiful.
  • The subject doesn’t necessarily have to be in the guidelines. You still need to creatively place it, like placing great elements in a web design.

In this photograph, noticed how the subject falls on the imaginary grid:


The subject is placed on the right side of the image, just slightly nudged from the right grid. This becomes really effective because the subject becomes more emphasized, thus adding emotion to the photograph.

Horizon Line Placement

Horizons are great elements in landscape images. They beautify the composition because they tend to suggest distance and  the fact that this can be a good background element. However, despite this, placing a great horizon line is often mislooked.

Most photographers place their horizon lines above or below the center point of a frame but never directly in the center. This is to properly emphasize the presence of the horizon. The only exception with this, perhaps, is when you shoot for reflections, which need to have equal elements at the top or bottom.

A good photographer knows where to place the horizon and use it to imply distance and perspective. It should also be straight. Askewed horizons are often ineffective because they suggest chaos within the image and bad perspective.


Leading Lines

A leading line is an element in the photograph that draws your eyes deeper into the image, and most often, the subject itself. Leading lines are like imaginary sign boards that direct you by saying, “The subject is this way”. They lead you to a specific region in the photo that cannot be easily noticed.



Symmetry refers to the equality of both sides of the image. Basically it’s saying what’s on the left is on the right as well. It means that there is balance on both sides, leading to powerful results.

Symmetry is one great way to break the Rule of Thirds because you don’t have to reason out why an image is on the center and does not run on the imaginary grid lines.


The example above shows a great use of symmetry. As you can see, the main subject of the image, which is the door, is not placed on either sides of the photograph. Instead, it’s placed on the center, a position which the Rule of Thirds doesn’t identify as powerful. However, despite being on the center the subject, the door turns to be really powerful because it is symmetrical.


If in the Rule of Thirds, we began to ask, “Where our subject is?” In this particular guideline, we ask, “Where are we?”

When taking photos, you need to take note where the image would look better. Will it become more dramatic when shot afar? When you’re above it, or on it? Will it look great if you will shoot it like how a bird sees the prey? Or how a worm looks up the sky?

Here are a few viewpoints to choose from:

High Angle Shots – shots taken above the eye-line. It’s like the camera looks down on the subject. High-angle shots make the subject look powerless and vulnerable.


Worm’s-eye View – are shots taken from below the subject but not on an angle where the camera is directly below the subject. Usually, in this shot, the subject has a vanishing point.


Low Angle Shots – shots taken below the eye-line. It’s like the camera is looking up at the subject. This shot makes the subject look powerful and mighty.


Bird’s-eye View – are shots taken from above the subject but not on an angle where the camera is directly above the subject. Usually, this shot is angled 40 degrees.


Notice the difference of this image from the high-angle shot. In the high angle shot, the camera appears to be directly above the subject. Also, the subject occupies a small space in the photography. On the other hand, this angle is taken on a higher ground but stands in a slightly tilted angle.

Point of View Shot – are shots taken on the eye-level. It’s like the camera is a person who is looking on the subjects.



Background is one of the  most rudimentary guidelines newbie photographers break. Remember that the background is as important as the subject.

Sometimes, backgrounds break the beauty of the photographs just because it isn’t too blurred. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • When the background is full of distracting elements, widen the aperture and blur them.
  • You can also change the angle or viewpoint if you don’t want a subject that stands out too much.



You can put frames within your photos by using trees, archways and holes to isolate the subject from the other parts of the image. This will make the viewer focus more on the subject. The frame helps emphasize that the isolated one is always the subject.

Other things You can use as natural frames:

  • Doorways
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Roots



Photography is also an interesting hobby to start on. Learning photography while you are designing websites can really help you improve your designs. Understanding these important guidelines is the first step.

Try shooting photos using your phone’s camera and apply these guidelines. How well do they look? Let us see.

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