To Do or Not to Do? {Composition Part 2}

written by Beckie of

As a follow-up to last week’s “rule of thirds” post, today I want to talk about a few DOs & DON’Ts when composing an image. Again, there are no real rules, but there are certain things that should be avoided.

DO Straighten your horizon! This first one is a big one for me, and one that when I see it, I have to actually look away, because it will generally turn me off of an image. I’m not talking about a minor horizontal tilt. I’m talking about tilting your camera so much in an attempt to be artistic that in your final image it appears as though your subjects are going to slide right off of the photograph. Don’t let your subjects slide off your photograph! (a side note: Pardon their attire; it’s a no-school relaxin’ day. Also, I forgot to take the 2nd picture showing the straight horizon, but I hope you get the idea. This is definitely not pleasing to the eye!)

straighten horizon

DON’T cut off limbs at a joint! If you need to compose so a limb gets cropped out, try composing so the edge of your image crops just above or preferably just below a joint. Cropping at the joint can make it look as though your subject’s limb has been amputated! (Oh boy, the teenage years! I can already see his little I’m-too-cool-for-school attitude!)


DON’T let a floating hand creep into your image. A floating hand appears when you have more than one subject and one places their arm around the other’s shoulder and resting their hand on that shoulder. The hand appears as if it is coming out of nowhere, hence the term “the floating hand”. (can you tell my kids had fun with this one? My son kept saying “floating hand of doom!” in his silly high-pitched voice, and my daughter thought it was hilarious!)

floating hand

DO your best to frame your image in camera to avoid cropping in post. If you know you want your composition to appear a certain way, it’s best to do that as much as you can in camera and don’t say “I’ll crop it in Photoshop”! Cropping in post can actually reduce the quality of your image.

I’m sure there are more tips I could add to this post, but we’ll save those for another day. Again, these are not hard, fast rules to photography composition, but composing an image with these tips in mind will help to make your images more pleasing to your viewers!

If you enjoyed reading my post and would like to follow more of my journey through life in photography, feel free to visit my blog or follow my Facebook page!

About Beckie

I'm Beckie, a fun, think-outside-the-box mama to 2 miracle children.
I love all things photography, and being able to share in this art with others!


  1. Great article, Beckie! The tilted horizon is huge pet peeve of mine, even minor tilts (when there is a strong horizon line or other elements that should obviously be straight) drive me crazy! And I love your tip about the “floating hand of doom,” I’m guilty of forgetting about that one sometimes and then kicking myself later!

  2. I read this post and laughed out loud about the floating hand of doom! i wish my wedding photographer would have learned the straight horizon tip…about 80% of my wedding photos are at an angle…ack!

  3. Thank you so much for these tips. It is amazing that what would seem like “minor” details can make such a huge difference in final photo. I would love to find the artist that decided that a tilted picture would be interesting and wring his/her little neck. I’ve seen so many potentially good shots ruined by that tilt. The floating hand (of doom) was a very good reminder. Been guilty of that one myself.

  4. Love these tips and reminders, never thought twice about the “floating hand” I will keep that one in mind also. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for the great tips!! Yes the horizon is a huge pet peeve of mine as well, though for whatever reason I am horrible about getting it straight in camera. Love the reminder of the floating hand of doom!

    What great sports your children are 🙂


  1. […] were helping me do some simple pictures for a blog post about composition on the Everyday Elements blog. They were laughing about “the floating hand of doom” (you’ll have to go read the […]

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