In my photography classes and online resources, I have learned about photographing the subject with a space to breathe in the photograph.

But there are several photos in which the head is facing bit away from the body. In the photo below, the photographer places the subject in the center.

What is the best way to place the main subject in this photograph? Is it keeping the kid towards the left side and looking into the photo or on the right and let his body some space in the photograph.

Thank you in advance.

enter image description here

Another example: enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean say some one is facing front and looking backwards. for example goo.gl/8tYld The bride is placed in the center of the photograph and I don`t think that looks good. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is almost too subjective to really answer well. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree but I am looking for a general guidelines for not putting my subject in the middle of the photograph unless needed. Due to my experience, these cases confused me often. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I peronally don't like the second photo at all. She is leading us to the right side of the picture, but all that is there is some out of focus background. The stuff on the left really detracts. My first instinct was to make this a vertical shot, but hey, what do I know, I'm only a engineer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really, the kid object in the kid photo is not in the center! Measure the center from bottom to top not from left to right! \$\endgroup\$
    – user11023
    Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 11:30

3 Answers 3


Most professional photographers tend to follow the Rule of Thirds, unless they are going for a specific effect.

The Rule of Thirds generally creates the most compositional interest and aesthetic appeal. This is true across all two-dimensional disciplines of art, including film.

Obviously, this is not always the case. Each artist has to take into account whether the rule of thirds (which is only a rule) gives them the style and effect they are after, or if another compositional style would be more appropriate.

To address your specific question on the photos:

  • With the child, I would place him farther to the right, so that the photograph doesn't feel so suffocating. Empty space would provide interest and would lead the eye to the main subject (the boy).

  • With the girl, it really depends. Her body positioning lends itself
    well to an almost dead center composition, but may look more
    intriguing further to the left.

As a general rule of thumb, more empty space tends to provide more interest and focus on the main subject.

A Common Misconception About The Rule of Thirds:
A common misconception with the rule of thirds is the idea that the subject should be place in one or more of the nine quadrants created by the horizontal and vertical lines. In actuality, the rule of thirds specifies that you place the subject at one of the four intersections that the horizontal and vertical lines create.

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    \$\begingroup\$ See also When should I break the rule of thirds?, and also this. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 5:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally I'd place the boy more to the left so that he is looking 'into the space'. Likewise I'd place the bride to the right to emphasise the fact that she is looking over her shoulder. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Elendil. Its an interesting point. Your explanation helps me understand what you mean. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's an artistic, symbolic aspect to it too - looking 'into the space' might suggest looking forward, into the future. Looking back over the shoulder suggests looking back at the bride's old life, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ElendilTheTall It's all quite subjective. It's really up to the artist. The main point should be to use common compositional rules as a basis, and then do what you feel portrays the kind of look and emotion that one would like to draw from the viewer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 15:13

I think the placement of the "subject" (the person) is dependent on other "interest" within the shot. The angle of the body to the face is not really important as a composition issue. in these cases it is shot "as natural" instead of staged/posed.

For example the top image, i imagine that the wall behind is fairly similar out of shot, so the shot is well composed as-is.

The bottom image, again the rose hedge appears to be fairly constant, i would have probably had the subject a little further to the left and have the hedge bluring off into the distance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your explanation. This helps me understand those shots better. Are there any other factors I should keep in mind while taking photos like these? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 19:17

I would say that first photo obeys the rule of thirds. Boy's eyes are at 1/3 from the top, and are given a significance in the photo. It seems to me that positioning the boy either left or right would be slightly awkward.

Same argument could probably be stretched to include the second photo, but not everything has to follow the rule anyway :). (I would personally probably put the bride more to the left)


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