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Smartphone Photography Training

Video Three

What is composition and those gridlines on our phone screen?

Today we are going to explore composition – what is it and the number one quick technique that will easily transform your photo from just a snapshot of the scene to a image that you intentionally composed and 'created'.

Have you seen that grid or grid line feature on your phone? I will explain what it is and why it works.

Composition briefly, is the placement or arrangement of elements within the scene; how they interact with each other and direct the attention of the viewer. One of the first objectives when creating an image is to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

There are a number of ‘rules’ to achieve this. These are guidelines that are generally accepted to assist most photographers achieve consistent photos that both look good and avoid common mistakes. You have seen the photos I am talking about that are not. These are the photos where someone is half cut out of the photo, the horizon is crooked, etc.

Gridlines on our phone camera

You may have seen on some phones the two vertical and horizontal lines that overlap the live view on the screen. This is called grids or gridlines depending on your phone. On the iPhone, this is accessed via Settings>Photos & Camera>Grid and on most Android phones via Settings>Applications>Camera>Grid Lines or the most recent devices it is accessible within the camera settings. After you enable this feature, you will see two vertical and two horizontal lines creating nine squares on top of your camera screen.

Rule of thirds

What is important about this grid is it actually breaks the image up into three vertical and horizontal sections. They are there to help you place the subject off-centre (not in the centre square). When you place the subject in the middle of the photo, the viewer’s attention is stuck on the static object. Placing the subject off-centre creates space for the viewer to find your subject, then look beyond at other elements in the photo.

We instinctively do this when we capture a photo of someone and want to include what is behind us. In most situations, the best location to place the subject is on one of the four intersecting lines. You will notice in professional portraits – the models eye will quite often be placed on an intersecting line.

If there is a horizon in your photo – place it on one of the two horizontal lines. Compare this to a photo where the horizon in precisely in the middle awkwardly dissecting the photo in two. In terms of landscape photos, placing the horizon on the lower line fills two thirds of the photo with the sunset and clouds. Conversely, placing the horizon on the higher horizontal line places more emphasis on the foreground.

Challenge time!

Turn on the gridlines and capture two images - align the horizon on the bottom horizontal line then the top horizontal line. Review and compare just how differently the main subject appears in the image.

Brilliant – those are some great tips you can implement straight away. Make sure you turn on the grids and start using them.

How easy – just to recap…

  • Composition is how you positioned the subject in the frame (screen)
  • Gridlines are there to help you place the main subject off-centre. The best four spots are where the lines intersect.
  • In a landscape image - fill two-thirds of the photo with either the more interesting sky or the ground. 

Great – thanks for joining me. I’d love to see you practice these tips and share your photos in our community.

Until then…..Be passionate, Be creative and Keep learning


Join our Facebook community to find like-minded learner photographers of all levels, who love to support each other. We run weekly photography challenges in the community and on Instagram, providing a great way to practice what you learn and share practical, jargon-free techniques and tips.


Phone camera techniques & tips

Suitable for Android & iOS phones

Duration 6 minutes 

Replay previous video in Smartphone Photography COurse


How to create a WOW photograph

How do I become more creative?

Duration 7 minutes 

Replay previous video in Smartphone Photography COurse


How do I structure & set up a photo?

What are those gridlines used for?

Duration 6 minutes 


Lighting - what to look for & avoid

Benefits of shooting in black & white

Duration 7 minutes 

Replay previous video in Smartphone Photography COurse


The importance of capturing video

Quick video techniques & tips

Duration 6 minutes 

Replay previous video in Smartphone Photography COurse