It’s one of the first things you will learn in a basic photography class and rightly so as it is the basis for well balanced and interesting shots.
I have always believed that rules are meant to be broken and ignoring this one doesn’t mean your images are necessarily unbalanced or uninteresting. However you can’t break a rule without first knowing what the rule is all about.
The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As follows.
As you’re taking your photo you should be thinking visualizing this grid as you look through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot.
With this grid in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.
Not only this – but it also gives you four ‘lines’ that are also useful positions for elements in your photo.
Using the Rule of Thirds comes naturally to some photographers but for many of us it takes a little time and practice for it to become second nature.
In learning how to use the rule of thirds (and then to break it) the most important questions to be asking of yourself are:
What are the points of interest in this shot?
Where am I intentionally placing them?
Once again – remember that breaking the rule can result in some striking shots – so once you’ve learned it experiment with purposely breaking it to see what you discover.
Lastly – keep the rule of thirds in mind as you edit your photos later on. Crop your photos in photoshop (or the post production editing tool of your choice) to reframe your images to fit within the rules. Experiment with some of your old shots to see what impact it might have on your photos.
The following is an example on how the rule of thrids can improve your images. This is a shot I took of a stuffed dog in center frame.
And the same dog framed in the lower right point of the grid.
This makes for a slightly more interesting photo and draws your eye through the photograph rather than locking you in the middle with nowhere to go. 🙂
The most common use of this rule is with landscapes. If you put your horizon on a grid line, rather than smack dab in the center, it makes for a much loveler image. Here is a simple example of that.
This photo of a local lake shows the lake shore and the horizon line following 2 of the grid lines. Now it’s time for you to go out and have some fun of your own! 🙂