6 Photography rules applied to eLearning

This week in my series of Creative Elearning I’m bringing a few ideas grabbed  from photography rules that can be applied to eLearning courses. In photography there are plenty of tips and tricks about composition that can be applied in elearning. Here I’m bringing some.

Rule of thirds in elearning

Rule of thirds
Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic photography composition rule. This rule says that we should imagine that our image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines.

According to the rule of thirds we should position the most important elements in our scene along these lines or at the points where they intersect. The idea behind is balance the image and make it more interesting.

We can do this when developing our screens. Pay attention to those courses that you’ve already created. Have you followed the rule of thirds. Try it out!


Watch out the background

Background in pictures

The rule of thirds in elearning
The rule of thirds in elearning

In corporate trainings is becoming more popular that companies create their own and personal gallery by taking pictures of their offices and of real employees.

The development team are not necessary photographers and they may encounter problems when shooting their first pictures.

When you take a picture one advice is to focus on the topic you want to highlight. Another advice is to avoid elements in your background that can be distractive.

It is common that you take a picture and you accidentally include something annoying in it. And most common is not seeing it until you are at the office revising the images. If this happens to you try to erase them or blur the background by using an image editor such as Gimp or Photoshop.

Good example: the topic the amazing clouds

Bad example: The same topic with one distractor.  Can you see it?

En un mar de nubes The sky
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/5274331645/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/10787184804/

Background in screens

I’m the one who prefers to have a clean and neat white background so the users can  focus in the content. However, in mobile applications it is common to use images or colours. My advice here is use a soft image or soft colours avoiding elements that can act as a distractor. Bare in mind that the important thing here is the content.

Background in screens
Background in screens

Find the imagery lines

In photography one advice is to find symmetry and patterns around us. People tend to draw lines among objects trying to find a pattern, people try to align the objects in a logic way.

The Orange Chapel
Image from Fabio Montado http://www.flickr.com/photos/11445691@N02/2828441697/

For newbies in elearning is common put the elements without thinking of this detail. The result is a course with elements without any sense or at least creating a feeling that something is wrong.


Less is more

Another advice in photography is “less is more” which consist of the idea that instead of taking a picture of the whole scene it is better to take a picture of a specific object. The idea is guiding the user to the topic of the picture.


In elearning courses we tend to overload users by putting a lot of information in one screen. To avoid overload your students try some of these strategies:

  • Chunk the information and split it up in different screens.
  • Combine words or ideas in screens and voiceover explanations.
  • Go from the most general idea to the most specific by using interactive tables, schemas or similar.

Guide the user’s eyes

In photography we use different techniques to guide the users eye to grab their attention. The leading lines rule is very common. By using this technique you manage to guide the user’s eye along the image.

London lights Somewhere lost in the countryside
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/8390856570/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalie_mslee/9560262703/

In elearning courses we must pay attention to guide the users through the content. Instead of just putting a content and maybe some image think for example in divide your content in a logical way so the student will remember the idea easily.

Try creating divisions of your content according to its importance. As you can see in the example the content below is divided into:

  • Header: with the title of the course
  • Title of the section wich has a different size and different colour
  • Content divided in chunks of information:
    • Introductory text
    • Detailed text
    • Text related to a specific content which is in an bullet list
    • Content highlighted
    • Image that illustrates the content

The rule of thirds

In elearning courses we must pay attention to guide the users through the content.

Tell a story

My teacher of photography always highlight the importance of telling a story behind the picture. People reminds your pictures because they are explaining something, because they are meaningful for people or because they cause some emotional feeling.

World Press Photo of the Year 2013 by John Stanmeyer
World Press Photo of the Year 2013 by John Stanmeyer

What about transfer this concept into the development of elearning courses? The thing is there is an existing approach that fit with this idea: Three M’s approach (MMM), Meaningful, Memorable and Motivational.

The idea behind is to go beyond those courses that are created for the lower levels of Bloom´s Taxonomy. Instead, try to create experiences that help students to recall the information and to apply them in real situations.

Think about use scenario based training, use case studies so students can deal with real problems in safe environments.

There are plenty of examples out there but as the guiding thread is photography here it is a good example of scenario based training in photography.


Adobe Captivate example of scenario based training.

Licencia de Creative Commons
From novice to mastery by Rosalie Ledda is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 3.0 Unported License.

Creado a partir de la obra en https://rosalieledda.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at rosalie.ledda@gmail.com.

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