Rule of Thirds

What is The Rule Of Thirds?

“The Rule of Thirds” is a composition technique used by film makers, artists, and photographers. The purpose of this technique is to give your images more balance by offsetting your subject when framing them through your camera, rather than having them in the center of your image. This has become a very commonly used technique by photographers of all skill levels to give their images a little more visual appeal.

Imagine a “grid” made up of nine equal squares/parts

Rule of Thirds GridWhen looking through your viewfinder to frame your shot, imagine a “grid” made up of nine equal squares/parts. With this grid in mind, the “rule of thirds” gives us four parts of the image that you should put emphasis on placing points of interest in as you are framing/composing your subject in your image. The four points inside the frame where the lines intersect are great spots to visually place things you want to draw attention to. This could be things like your subject’s face (especially the eyes), an object of interest or important parts of the surroundings in a landscape image that you want to emphasize on. You can also place your points of interests directly along the lines inside of the grid. You will find examples of images using both the intersections of the squares and the horizontal and vertical lines themselves at the end of this article.

Why Use The Rule of Thirds?

By placing points of interest in the intersections of the squares or directly along the lines, your photo becomes more balanced and enables the viewer to more naturally visually interact with it. When looking at photos or art, our eyes usually naturally go to one of the intersecting points instead of directly to the center of the image. Applying the rule of thirds technique helps encourage this natural visual reaction with your viewers. Mastering using the rule of thirds may take practice. Just as with everything when it comes to learning how to master your photography craft, the best way to learn is to pick up your camera and explore. Train your eyes to see this imaginary grid when looking at your screen or viewfinder. It will eventually become second nature to you with effort and practice.

Another way to familiarize yourself with the rule of thirds is post processing software, such as Photoshop or Lightroom. You can use the cropping tools to “move” your points of interest to where they need to be to follow this rule. Experimenting with this will help you to better see what you should be looking for when taking a shot and framing your images.

Examples Using The Four Intersections of The Lines

The above image uses the bottom left intersection as a place to add a point of interest. In this case, it is the little girl’s face. Eyes are a great point of interest when photographing people.

This image uses the bottom right square intersection as the image’s point of interest, his hand gripping the pencil. With everything going on in this photo, using the rule of thirds naturally draws the viewer’s eyes to this point and encourages them to visually start there, and move their eyes around the image to the other objects and the subject. Prompting this type of interaction from people when viewing your images is the goal when practicing the rule of thirds. It makes them naturally more interesting. Which is something we should all strive for as photographers.

Using The Actual Lines As Points of Interest

This image demonstrates using the bottom horizontal line as the point of interest. The Scrabble pieces spelling out the word “love” sits directly on the imaginary rule of thirds bottom horizontal line. You could use the top horizontal line the same way.

For this image, the right vertical line is used for this technique. The couple is framed so that they align with this “grid’ that we visualize in our heads when composing our subjects. This works especially well for this image since we can’t see the subjects’ faces. It gives us a point to visually be drawn to, other than our eyes going straight to the center.

The image above actually uses both the left vertical line and top left square intersection for using the rule of thirds. Their smiling happy faces and loving interaction set on the top left intersecting square. And the playful posing of her on his back “piggy back style” rests on the left vertical line. Which are both interesting parts of the image and make great points of interest.

In summary, the rule of thirds is just one of many composing techniques used by photographers everywhere. While placing your subjects dead center works well, and is sometimes necessary in many images, the rule of thirds is definitely something you should familiarize yourself with and put to practice as often as you can. It is a great way to give your images that visual appeal they may be lacking.

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