Thinking Within The Box(es)
Whether your camera stays in auto mode or is locked into full manual, the composition of your image is important. Creating an aesthetic balance in your shot will help keep the viewer engaged. The most basic rule of composition is known as the rule of thirds.
Regardless of the shape of your photograph, imagine there is a grid of two vertical and two horizontal lines dividing your image into nine separate boxes. The most prominent parts of your image should fall on or near these lines. This will help you create an even look throughout the photograph.
In this image the goats are dividing the bottom third from the top two-thirds and also falling on the vertical grid lines. The man out of focus in the background also falls on a line to balance the image.
Here the rocks are almost filling the bottom third of the image with the fishing net falling directly on the dividing line. The most prominent crane falls on the right vertical line with the cranes in the background pointing at the other line in the grid. A nearly empty sky rounds out the upper left of the image.
In this image, the boy using the saw falls on the axis of two different grid lines. The I-beams on the buildings also fall on both vertical lines.
Even with an atypical shape this rule will still generally apply. The boys with their tea lifted sit on third lines along with their eye line resting on a horizontal third. One third on the top and one third on the right of the image frame our subjects from behind with the corrugated door.
Now when you look at your favorite paintings and photographs you will most likely see this principle jumping out at you.
To look even further into how to create a captivating composition, take a look at this article about leading lines and other techniques.