How the Rules of Photo Composition Apply to Financial Planning


First, a confession: I am that guy who likes to stop the car while on a trip for the scenic overlooks and the ridiculous road signs. I’ve been drawn to capturing the beauty of nature and curious locations for years. Photography is a hobby of mine and recently, I became curious about improving my skills so I began to look for ways to think creatively about composition.

Through my research, I discovered that most of the tips were the same. Each had a subtle twist on the theme of “practice and develop a unique eye for your subject.” This resonated with me as it brought to mind countless situations over the course of my career in which this same principle was applicable. Here’s how to use the rules of photo composition when you’re ready to Frame Your Picture™ (or reframe it) and set out to achieve the financial future you envision.

Capture Vertical and Horizontal Images

Too often, we fall into a pattern of taking photos of a subject in the same orientation. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, forcing yourself to view your subject with a fresh eye will make you think harder about the outcome you wish to achieve.

As with financial planning, too often we allow others to frame outcomes for us or only take into account one view of the future instead of looking at the larger picture from various angles. Giving yourself permission to view outcomes with your own eye can deliver deeply meaningful results. By coupling this new view with finding an advisor who can share your unique vision and Frame Your Picture™, you may find the financial planning process is – dare I say it? – enjoyable.

Keep It Simple

Rarely in life is complexity preferred over simplicity. Simplifying the scene eliminates the moving parts and clutter, while allowing the viewer of your photograph to engage more easily with the primary subject. The question becomes, how do you simplify the scene? Something in a scene that caught your eye will stand out – something of size, shape, texture and so on.

By beginning with a simplified composition subject and then allowing color and the surrounding landscape to enter into frame is much less distracting than attempting to capture everything at once. This holds true with your financial picture as well. Added complexity to a portfolio for the sake of complexity or chasing return of unproven asset classes is nothing but clutter if it obstructs how you Frame Your Picture™ for your financial future.

Offset the Subject

There are very few rules to follow when you set out to take interesting photography, but one that stands out is the Rule of Thirds. The basic instruction is to never place your subject into the very middle of the frame to avoid a static look and feel. Instead, creating a mental grid of nine equal segments and placing the subject into the area outside of the middle square or occupying a third (or alternatively 2/3s) of the frame.

Building a photograph in this manner takes practice but once applied, your compositional eye naturally enjoys the result. This simple rule of avoiding a static photo directly applies to building a portfolio as well. Many investors only focus on the middle square, or what is working right now, rather than building a portfolio that captures the full frame for the very best results.

The creation of stunning imagery – like the ability to clearly envision all aspects of your financial future – is truly an art form. Next time you’re attempting to capture the grandeur of a sunset over Lake Michigan or the silliness of a Route 66 tourist trap, I encourage you to stop and think about the composition of the photo you’re about to take. Then, take a moment to enjoy the improved end result. You may be surprised how much more you’ll find yourself wanting to Frame Your Picture™ in the future.

Looking for assistance as you Frame Your Picture™ for your financial future?  Schedule a time to talk about your financial picture with CornerCap Wealth Advisors today.

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