The rule of thirds is surely the principle best known in photography. This is one of the first things that novice photographers learn because it makes it easy to shoot photos with a balanced composition.
What is the rule of thirds?
Its principle is to divide the frame into 9 equal rectangles by drawing 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines on the thirds.
The rule of thirds says that if you position the points of interest of your scene along these lines or at their point of intersection, your images will be more balanced and attract the viewer’s eye. Indeed, the human eye naturally tends to follow these lines and move towards their points of intersection rather than towards the center of the image.
These lines are also called lines of force and their points of intersection are defined as the strong points of the image.
When you frame your photo, you have to imagine this fictional grid and juxtapose the elements of your scene. The rule of thirds is quite intuitive for some photographers who can easily position the important elements in the frame.
If you’re having trouble, you can display a grid in your viewfinder or on your LCD screen to help you compose your image. Many cameras offer this feature; refer to your user manual for more information.
Before you press the shutter button, you will need to answer the following two questions to improve the composition of your photos:
- What are the interesting elements of the scene?
- Where am I going to position them in the frame?
Some examples of photos using the rule of thirds:
In addition to the first example where the flower represents the point of interest of the image here are some additional examples where the rule of thirds is used:
A very effective technique in landscape photography is to position the horizon along one of the two horizontal lines of thirds.
You can choose to position the horizon on the top line if you want to give more importance to the ground. If you prefer to favor the sky, as in the photo below, place the horizon on the lower horizontal line.
In portrait photography, the subject’s eyes are very important because they are the ones that capture the viewer’s gaze.
So in the photograph below, the child’s eyes were positioned along a third line. To give even more strength to the composition, the child’s left eye was also placed at the intersection point of two lines.
Although it is recommended to make a good framing when shooting, the photo editing software has a tool that allows you to crop your photos later to comply with the rule of thirds. You can do the test on some of your old photos to see the impact of its use.
The rule of thirds is one of the fundamentals of the composition in photography. However, be careful not to seek systematically to apply it otherwise your images may be relatively monotonous. Once you master the principle, do not hesitate to vary your compositions to explore new photographic horizons.