The Rule of Thirds is one of the most well-known techniques you can learn to create better compositions and can help you progress from “taking pictures” to “making photographs.” It’s not a rule but a principle that works for landscapes, portraits, wildlife, and every other type of image.
What is the rule of thirds in photography?
The rule of thirds is one of the common and simple rules in photography. It breaks an image into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have nine pieces and four grid lines. You will get better compositions when you place the key elements along with the gridlines.
You can create a pleasing and well-balanced image using the rule of thirds. It’s a way of emphasizing your main point of interest, marking it as important. It feels natural and harmonious, whereas placing the main subject smack in the middle of the image can feel unbalanced and boring.
How to use the rule of thirds?
The rule of thirds is very easy to use. You can place your subject as a person, flower, animal, building, etc. As we already know it works horizontally and vertically.
When photographing faces, flowers, cars, and anything else, it helps them look into the frame and draw the viewer into the image instead of pointing at it.
The rule of thirds usually goes with the concept of negative space. For example, when photographing a subject looking left or right, it’s usually a good idea to place the subject at the third intersection of a rule that allows them to see the open side of the frame. This gives the photo “breathing room” and negative space that lets the viewer follow the subject’s gaze.
When creating your composition, you need to decide which is more important – the top of the scene or the bottom. If it is upper, the horizon line is placed lower in the frame. If it is lower, the horizon is placed higher in the frame.
If there is no clear horizon, look for a leading line or something or things that might indicate one and it leads to a rule of thirds point with a dominant element like a rock, tree, mountain peak, or even a bright point.
Breaking the rules of thirds
The rule of thirds is just a guideline with many exceptions. Symmetrical subjects often look great in the center of the frame. Or sometimes you want to use symmetry to create a sense of balance by placing two elements opposite the image.
Some photographers also think that the rule of thirds is a poor basis for learning photographic composition because it can make photos as boring and formulaic as compositions where the subject is in the center of the frame.
So, once you have a solid grasp of the rule of thirds and understand why it can improve compositions, it might be a good idea to experiment with breaking the “rule” in order to further your ability to create compelling compositions based on it.
The rule of thirds helps you to make your photography skill better. It’s a simple and easy guideline that you can learn in a short period of time. As you already know the rules, now you can start practicing.
Hi! My name is Damian, I live in Chicago since 2015, and I am a photographer, traveler, and coffee drinker.
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Honorable Mention Award from “MIFA” – Moscow International Foto Awards.