Rule of Thirds in Photography

The Rule of Thirds in Photography

When it comes to mastering photography, the issue isn’t always whether or not it can be done, itโ€™s how are you going to do it easily and quickly? Unfortunately for many people, they just can’t seem to take the pictures they want no matter how hard they try. I am going to reveal to you one of the easiest and quickest ways that anyone, and I mean ANYONE can start to take better photographs!

But just before I go into that, you need to know that it’s far better to get your photograph as good as you can get it in the camera before you start editing afterwards. There’s nothing wrong with cropping your picture later on so that the composition looks right, but you’ll save yourself a lot of work and stress, and end up with a much better picture just by taking it properly in the first place. This applies whether you’re using a point and shoot camera on your mobile phone or an expensive top of the range SLR.

There are quite a few things that you need to consider when creating a great shot before you’ve even pressed the button and taken the picture, let alone started editing it, so I won’t be talking about Photoshop right now. Photoshop and the other well known editing software packages are fantastic, and you can do amazing things with them, but you should just concentrate on taking the picture first.

So what’s the secret to framing a great shot? There’s no hard and fast rule to this, but probably one of the easiest ways ANYONE with ANY level of skill can take a better picture with ANY camera is by using the Rule of Thirds – if you can call it a rule. As you’ll see, it’s not really a rule at all. Douglas Bader, the famous British WWII pilot once said, “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools!” That may be a bit of an extreme way of looking at it, but it’s also true of The Rule of Thirds. It’s not so much a rule, more of an aid to good shot composition, so you can break the rule if you really want.

rule-of-thirds

rule-of-thirds


You’ll find that your pictures can often be greatly improved by mentally dividing the image into thirds like a tic tac toe grid (or noughts and crosses as it’s called in the UK) with two horizontal, and two vertical lines, so that the shot is divided into nine equal sized imaginary squares

As I’ve already said, the Rule of Thirds is probably one of the easiest and most effective ways you can improve your pictures when learning digital photography, or at any other time for that matter. Once you’ve divided the image up, place the main subject roughly where two of the lines intersect, rather than placing it in the middle of the frame, which is one of the most common mistakes that beginners make. If your subject is a person or an animal, try putting the eyes on the line marking the top third. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now ready to start taking better photographs!

How to Use Rule of Thirds in Photography

Rule of thirds is an important principle to understand in the visual and creative arts industries that allow visual artists to compose great paintings, photos, videos and, designs. The visual arts composed make use of the fact that human eyes are naturally drawn to specific parts of a composition. This creates a composition that is very natural to the human eye and will look more appealing than composition that does not follow this rule. Of course, with any rule, there will be some exceptions to it, but do not attempt to bend this rule without first understanding what the rule is all about and how it works. I will explain this rule in more detail from a photography perspective.

Imagine for a moment that your image is divided into thirds by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines so that there are nine equal sized parts of the image. There will be four points where the lines will intersect. These four points will be of great importance when composing your shot as they are the strongest focal points in an image. Another way to imagine this is to picture a Tic Tac Toe game in action.

A Tic Tac Toe game consists of two horizontal lines and two vertical lines that are equally spaced and intersects at four points. The horizontal and vertical lines create nine equally sized parts in the image. Many digital cameras can even show you these lines in the LCD monitor, so it’s a good idea to check your instruction manual to see if yours has a menu setting for this. If not, it doesn’t matter – you can still easily do this without actual lines. Just imagine they are there.
The rule of thirds states that main focus to a subject should not be placed in the center of the composition. Instead, it should be placed at the thirds of the composition along one of the four lines. The best result will be to place the most important point of interest of your subject on one of the four points where the lines intersect.

When shooting landscapes, you would want to place the horizon of the scene along one of the horizontal lines, where the human eyes are naturally drawn to.
rule of thirds for landscape photography
For portraits, it is a good idea to place your subject along one of the vertical lines. If the subject’s face is the main focus, you should try to ensure that one of the four intersecting points sits around the middle of your subject’s face as that will create the best result, preferably with the subject’s eyes along one of the horizontal line.
the rule of thirds for portraits
Many digital cameras come equipped with a feature that allows you to activate the camera grid which will then divide your LCD screen display or viewfinder into nine equally sized parts. If your digital camera does not have this feature, you can always make one out of a transparent paper. Just cut out a small section of the transparent paper that matches your LCD screen display’s size and then draw two horizontal and two vertical lines, making sure they are equally spaced.

When using the rule of thirds to compose your image, you should generally ask yourself what are the main points of interest in the scene. Once you have identified the main points of interest, align them along one of the vertical or horizontal lines depending on where the point of interest is and how you wish to express that to the viewers. Do this many times and you’ll soon be able to apply the rule of thirds automatically without having to think too much where you should place your subject in the frame.

8 Comments

  1. Becky August 8, 2016
  2. Brenda Sullivan August 8, 2016
  3. Shannon Schroecker August 8, 2016
  4. D. Wallace Peach September 4, 2016

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