Symmetry vs. Asymmetry

The first and most obvious thing to decide is whether your image will be symmetrical / centered – with the dog straight in the middle, or asymmetrical, with the dog off to one side. 

When I’m talking about symmetry here, I don’t mean that both sides of the image will be identical – this is rather difficult in natural environments. More that the dog is more or less in the middle, without the balance of the image being to one side of the other.

There are a few reasons you might choose to do it one way or the other. Symmetrical photos are great with balanced, even backgrounds (eg., there isn’t one side that is very dark and one side and one very light side.), where the dog is quite perpendicular to the camera, looking directly into the lens. 

These photos tend to be powerful but not very dynamic, and quite safe. They can make for dramatic, strongly-connected images. Some examples of symmetrical/centred photos:


Asymmetry is when the image is “off-centre”. There are two instances when you can use asymmetry.

  • One, where the dog is looking to the side instead of straight forward. You should give him “space to look into”.
  • The other is a little more tricky. The dog may be perfectly situated for a centred, symmetrical photo, but you compose it so that he is off to one side. This is quirky, a bit interesting, and should suit the mood. For example, I would not necessarily use a quirky off-centre photo with a very dark and intense mood (but again, rules are made to be broken). These can make use of elements or frames in the image (eg., tree trunks) where it wouldn’t make sense to have the tree in the middle of the mage.

Here are some examples of off-centre asymmetry where the dog COULD have been centred.

Composition Rules and Guides

There are a few compositional rules or guidelines within photography. If you use Lightroom, when you’re in the crop tool, you can press “O” on your keyboard to cycle through a variety of different compositional options!

The most well known of these is the “Rule of Thirds”

Rule of Thirds

This divides your image up into equal thirds. The idea is that you should position important elements (such as the eyes) of the image either along the horizontal or vertical grid lines, or, even better, on an intersecting point. 

I’ve found this can be a little bit hit and miss with dog photography, given the perspective at which we shoot, the size and height of our subjects and so on. I would definitely advise against squashing your dog into the frame just to get their eye on an intersecting point. 

You can also use rule of thirds for more landscape based photos, where one third might be the sky, another third might contain your subject and the “scene” and the lower third could be foreground.

Rule of thirds is a nice place to begin really thinking about composition because it’s pretty safe and well known, it’s generally easy to line our subjects up on one or another of the grid lines, and many cameras even have a rule of thirds grid-line overlay in their display, so you can compose the photo with the rule of thirds already in mind. 

Here are some examples.

Other Options

There are actually other grid options you can play with! You may find yourself getting creative if you explore some of these other grids. I haven’t used these grids very much, but have recently begun to play with them a bit to see how they could help me create more interesting images.


This grid is great when there are diagonal elements in the image. You can also use it along with the rule of thirds grid to see if there is some/any crossover (and if so, it should be a compositionally strong image!).


This one seems like a fun and interesting option. The idea is to place points of interest within each of the triangles.

Press Shift + O on your keyboard to rotate the grid. 

Maybe something like this??

Golden Ratio

This is thought of as a more “advanced” version of the rule of thirds, but with more emphasis on the corners and less on the centre.

The idea is the same place interesting things on the grid lines or at intersecting points. It’s possible that when I’m breaking the rule of thirds rules, I’ve been accidentally using this grid. I’ll have to check that!

Golden Spiral

The golden spiral is a mathematical concept, created by making squares from Fibonacci numbers.

This doesn’t mean a lot for us. Suffice it to say that golden spirals and Fibonacci sequences are seen all throughout nature and classic art. 

For photography, the idea is that the most important or detailed parts of the image should be located at the smallest part of the coil, and the rest of the elements of the image should help lead the viewer toward that point. 

Since nature is made up of plenty of curves, we should be able to use this concept within our images. I would say many of us do, in the way that we (myself especially) darken areas and create the “flow” through the image. Remember back to the “Location and our photography goal” lesson, we looked at how a viewer might travel through our image? This is much the same! 

When I tried this overlay on many of my photos, the spiral ended up somewhere over their nose or face. I’m not sure how “perfect” you need to be with this, or if it should lead to the face in general, rather than the eyes specifically.

I like this example especially, as the bushes at the bottom of the frame perfectly follow the line, you reach the dark edge of the photo so travel back across, reading the dark edge behind Journey, so are brought back into his face again, exactly as I had wanted, but without realising the spiral fit within it like this.

Leading Lines

It can be fun to experiment with “leading lines”. These are lines within the photo which lead the viewer’s eye to your dog. 

The most obvious example is train tracks, but this has been done to death, is often illegal, can be very dangerous, and is clichéd now. Please don’t use train tracks for leading lines. See what other lines you can find out and about. Can a tree trunk, branch, tree roots or fern frond lead the viewer to your subject? How about using a path? Are there other lines within nature, or urban landscapes which can be used to lead toward your dog?