What is the rule of thirds?



In photography school, one of the first things a new student learns is called the rule of thirds. Very simply it is this. Imagine 4 lines through your picture. Two dissect the picture vertically and two horizontally. This divides your picture into 9 equal sections. 3 across and 3 down.

You’ll notice that all the basic subjects of interest fall somewhere near these lines. The cabin is at the intersection of two.

The fence leading to the cabin and both fences in the foreground, all fall near the lines. Even the nearest fence posts teeter around the vertical line on the left.

Doing this balances out the image. When taking a picture, if you place your subject/s somewhere along these lines, the composition of your picture is said to be more appealing to the eye.

Here it is again without the lines. Whadayathink?

The generally accepted rules for people and animals are, eyes at one horizontal line, either upper or lower, and the nearest edge is at their back.

This next picture follows the Rule of Thirds. The one after that doesn't. To me, it's pretty obvious which I find more appealing even though the only difference is adherence to the principle.

Notice the little guy’s feet, his body, the stick on the ground, even the edge of the bushes roughly follow along the lines. His eyes are near the intersection of two. All aspects of the top picture follow "The Rule of Thirds."

If your subject divides your picture, either horizontally or vertically the appeal seems to diminish. The difference may be subtle, but subconscious impressions make all the difference in the world.

There will always be exceptions and there will always be artistic preferences. However you choose to divide your subjects and the picture, if you keep this rule in mind, you will be creating beautiful photographs rather than just getting snapshots.

After a time of consciously practicing the rule of thirds it will become automatic.

There are a few other rules of composition, but if you practice this one it covers enough territory to have you proudly displaying photographs of all types. Later you can study more deeply if you wish to expand your horizons.

Share your best photo composition


Composition is one of the most important aspects in photography. Above I shared one principle.

Are you particularly proud of the composition of one photo you took? Would you like to show it off? Share it here and describe your artistic input. You'll receive the well deserved praise; at the same time you will help others learn to create award winning photographs.

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