Rule of Thirds in Photography


There’s quite a difference between taking a photo and photography. Anyone can snap away at a scene and take a more than ample photo with a well-lit subject, a nice effective aperture and vibrant expressive colors. One of the simplest things though that defines a snapshot from photography is the positioning of the subject in your photo. This is where the Rule of Thirds can help you.

The rule of thirds is a method and technique that can help you compose your image and bring out its energy, tension and feel. All you really need to do is imagine your cameras screen is split into nine even squares, with two lines running down and two running across, just like seen in the image above. Most cameras do have a simple feature that does this for you. Try pushing the display button a few times and you should see the grid appear on the screen.

The general idea is for you to place your subject upon any of these lines. If you have a specific subject like a person in the image then you should try to position them on one of the ‘Golden Means’, which are the points where these lines intersect. If there’s a horizon in your image or other object (like the jetty and distant sea in the seagull image), then aim to place this along one of the lines. In most cases, it’s on these points that a subject can be most appealing.

Whilst it is called the ‘rule’ of thirds though, it is of course only a guide and using the lines inflexibly is a poor way to manage your layout. You should aim to compose your image in whatever way looks the best whilst taking the rule into consideration. Many times it just discourages centering your subject. There are though times you’ll find that a subject is much more effective when taken centered to the frame (Bulls eye composition). In these cases you can once again use the cameras template to square your image.

In philosophy the Rule of Thirds is very simple, and it’s one of the easiest techniques to execute. It’s quite difficult to get it wrong, and once the concept has been put to practice a few times you’ll find you’re instinctively taking well-composed photographs.

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