Composition inc. the rule of odds

creating a sense of balance in your composition

Understanding what makes a balanced composition is important if you want to achieve photos that ‘feel right.’ When the elements in the frame feel natural and their arrangement is harmonious, the photos will be engaging and pleasant to look at.

In my last post, and the first post from this series I wrote about composition and The Rule of Thirds. This time around I’ll be talking again about composition and for starters, The Rule of Odds

the rule of odds

It is said that an odd number of elements in a frame is more visually appealing for the eye than an even number. A group of three is said to create harmony and balance. For example, if you are going to place more than one person in a photograph, don’t use two, use 3 or 5 or 7, etc.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Keep in mind if all of your photos contain groups of three it’s maybe a too predictable. Try being creative with the your subjects.

Try framing one large subject and put three plates next to it or choose three very different props for the story; you could pick three colors for your compositions, or could try grouping many elements into three irregular clusters, and so on.

how many? 3, 7, 9, 12, 15…

The rule of odds only applies until the number is so great that it just looks lie a lot of elements in the frame. 3 is my favorite, and I think 5 is the max for most things. What’s your experience with this? Do you prefer 3 as well?

This analogous color combination is nice. However the photograph would be much more interesting had there been for example three utensils, and three slices of lime grouped together, and a small grouping of the green herbs. Even better was if the hero subject, the bread, was larger. 

What do you think?


The simple beauty of symmetry is something the eye can never resist. We are naturally drawn to the harmony it creates. Although it works well for some subjects It can look unnatural or even boring. Add additional elements to the frame, to create a more organic and dynamic scene without disturbing the balance.


Place the main subject right in the center of the frame. In my opinion, it’s a powerful method to signal the importance of the hero. But to avoid making the subject too symmetrical, add a couple of carefully chosen elements on either side of the subject.

I don’t think this photo to the left from Alexandra wouldn’t be as appealing had it been a split mirror image. Using the elements around the hero subject gives it a natural feeling.

Again these things I write about are methods of creating good composition, and are not rules you have to apply to each and every photo you take. 

what's the story?

In a great photo story, there is always a hierarchy of elements: the main subject, and the supporting cast. What interests us the most are usually described as having more visual weight, that is what is needed if you want to draw the eye to your hero subject. You’ve got to make it the most interesting part of the photography. This way your viewer will be drawn to it. 

Depending on the interpretation, a photograph can succeed or fail.

If the sliced cake was the hero subject the photo above, then it failed. If it was a story about a brunch or breakfast then the photo succeeded. 

next time around - negative space + more

Next time I’ll get into negative space, and talk about more composition methods for creating visual interest.

Thanks for stopping by! 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *