It’s now Day 2 in my 30 Day Photography Challenge, and today’s challenge is to tackle the rule of thirds. This is a great rule, and pretty much the first rule that photographers learn when it comes to composition. Here’s my full article on the Rule of Thirds.
You should read the full article, but I’m going to give you a brief summary of points that you will want to pay attention to when working around the rule of thirds.
Firstly lets have a look at what the rule is.
The rule basically dictates that photos should be split into 9 equal parts; 2 equally-spaced horizontal lines and 2 equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important features within the frame should intersect with these lines at some point.
It looks something like this.
Now you may have noticed that when you come to crop your photos that you’re provided with a guide containing the rule of thirds. This is no accident. It’s best to get it right in the camera and not crop at all, but sometimes, needs must.
Lets start by looking at my photo, which has been poorly cropped. By not paying attention to the rule, the photo is messy, and whereas I was originally looking past the face on the right, it seems to intrude much more into the photo. Overall, this is pretty sloppy composition.
Now lets have a look at the difference when I meet one of the intersect points with the eye of the subject.
The difference is clear. When you’re composing your photo with the rule of thirds, then it pays to line up important parts of the image with either the lines or the intersect points. The eyes have the strongest visual weight out of anything in this photo, so they’re always an obvious location for an intersect point.
The eye isn’t the only point in the photo that I’ve used though. The light in the background is also located at another intersect point, and there are obvious lines (black at the top, brown at the bottom) on the left side of the frame, which follow the lines of composition. Paying attention to small details like this can make a big difference (and add balance).
The point of using the rule of thirds is that you can create a much more interesting photo. It opens up space in the frame to look into the background and what else is going on in the frame. It works especially well with candid photography because it’s all about providing a sense of detail about what’s going on, without being too intrusive.
This doesn’t just work for photos of people though, there’s also buildings, and landscapes and so on.
If you want to make your photos more interesting, then this is the go-to rule that you should try. Of course, when I say rule, I don’t mean rule (they’re guides really), but they’re called rules to make it easier for us to understand their purpose.
Here’s the final photo, with the grid taken off. It makes it less obvious why this photo works, but we know that it does.
- The rule of thirds adds depth
- Intersect import points at intersect points
- Match up important lines to the thirds lines
- Be creative and don’t take the rule too seriously
- Don’t overdoo it!
Read more about the Rule of Thirds here.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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