One of the most well known photography techniques is the rule of thirds. It is used in all types of photography to produce images, which are more engaging and better balanced, and is an excellent starting point for any composition. The rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, similar to a tic-tac-toe board. You position the important elements along those lines, or at the points where the lines meet. The concept behind the rule of thirds is that an off-center composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than when your subject is placed in the center of the frame. This will also help you make creative use of negative space in your images as well. The great thing about this technique is that it can be used with any camera you purchase from Beachcamera.com, either by visualizing on your own, or you can choose live view mode on the Canon EOS Digital Rebel T5 from Beachcamera.com by going to settings and clicking on Grid Display.
How to Use Rule of Thirds
If you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines, your photo will become more balanced. People’s eyes naturally go to one of the intersection points when looking at photos, so using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing images. When framing your photo, imagine the scene divided into the 9 sections and think about what elements are most important. Try to position those at or near the lines and intersections on the grid you have created. When attempting to photograph using this rule you need to ask yourself:
- What are the points of interest in this shot?
- Where am I intentionally placing them?
Rule of Thirds Examples
Landscapes– It’s common practice to place the horizon along the center of the frame making the photo look like it has been split in half. When using the rule of thirds while photographing landscapes, this usually means having the horizon align with the upper or lower third of the image. If the sky is more interesting, position the horizon on the bottom thirds line. This will allow you to fill two thirds of the frame with sky, and draw the viewer’s attention to that part of the image. If your landscape has an interesting foreground, then align the horizon along the top thirds line instead.
People and Animals- Stay away from taking photos of people that look like mug shots. That’s what happens when you center your subject and ignore the rule of thirds. Instead, position people off to one side of the frame to provide some breathing space and show the subject’s environment. The eyes are the first thing viewers notice, and what they are drawn to first, so positioning them off-center will create the strongest composition. If you can see both eyes, position them along the top gridline where two lines intersect. If you have taken a shot from the side and can only see one eye, position the eye on the junction point where two lines meet.
People and Animals on the Move– When photographing moving objects, place them according to the rule of thirds, but also pay attention to the direction they are moving. Leave more space in front of them to show where they are going. This allows the viewer to imagine the subject moving through the frame into the space in front of them.
Various Subjects & Shots- Vertical subjects such as a lighthouse can split a photo in half just like a horizon can when photographing a landscape. Avoid this by aligning it off center along a vertical line.
The rule of thirds can be just as effective when shooting Close-ups. Decide where you want the eye to be drawn to, and position that area of the subject off-center according to the rule of thirds.
The position of the main subject is critical even when it is the only thing in the picture. Using the rule of thirds will allow you to create good composition where the subject balances the empty, negative space.
Editing and Cropping
It’s never too late to apply what you have learned. You can apply the rule of thirds to existing photos by cropping and reframing so they fit within the rules through editing programs. You can move your subjects into more pleasing positions to draw the attention and focus where it belongs making a more eye-catching photo.
It is important to remember that all rules are bound to be broken at some point, and the rule of thirds is no exception. Remember to ask yourself: what is special about this subject, and what do I want to emphasize? If the rule of thirds helps you to reach these goals, then use it. If not, then don’t let it get in the way of your creativity. Think of it as more of a “rule of thumb” than a rule set in stone.