Conceptualize your compositions to improve your iPhone photography

iPhone Photography Series

In today’s lesson in iPhone photography, we will be digging a bit deeper into the mystical ideas of composition. Remember, before you consider the post processing of an image you need to expose and compose properly. In previous lessons we examined the Rule of Thirds. It is pretty straightforward and a great creative technique to have in your tool box. However, we never explored why, or how, it works. In this lesson, to better understand it, as well as other compositional guidelines, we will explore the idea of static vs. dynamic compositions.

Before we explore the ideas of composition, it’s important we understand the concept of ‘visual weight’ (or strength). Every elements in our compositions have varying weight/strength associated with them. It could be heavy, light, dark, strong, soft, etc. Obvious properties that influence a subject’s weight (or strength) are its size and position. Is the element in the background or in the foreground? Is it big or small?

Here is a quick example of visual weight. Mt. Hood is a huge visual element, however because it is in the background, I would say it has a similar or equal visual weight to that of the much smaller rock in the foreground. Also, because the treeline is so dark, it too has an equal visual weight relative to the other elements.


Now that we have an understanding of ‘visual weight’ as it relates to our subjects, let’s see how this weight will impact our compositions. As I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, we are going to examine two distinct types of compositions: dynamic and static. Let’s look at a few static compositions first.

Static Compositions

I will describe a static composition as one where you center a majority of your visual weight. In my opinion, this type of composition is the most powerful composition we have at our disposal. It is strong! However, it doesn’t move the viewer’s eye around. There isn’t any tension or unbalance. Everything is resolved, unmoving and static. Here are a few examples of what I mean my static compositions.

Static1 IMG_4833 IMG_0126

Dynamic Compositions

In opposition to the static composition is the dynamic composition. These are images where we create imbalance by positioning elements with stronger visual weight outside the center of our photograph. This discrepancy in balance creates interest and tension. It forces your eye to dance around, examine the image and experience the tension. Here are a few examples of dynamic compositions.

Dynamic1 IMG_2253 IMG_5149


Now that we have a better understanding of visual weight and how it impacts our compositions, let’s go out and give it a try. Work with each composition and tag your photos with #iDBStaticDynamic and let us all see what you are doing. If your photos are great, we will feature them here on iDownloadBlog in the coming lessons.

Justin Balog is an award winning photographer and film maker. You can follow is daily creative adventures at or learn more about iPhone Photography in his iBook ‘Big World Little Lens‘. Click Here for the iPad Version. To find out more about Justin, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.