Improve your images with the rule of thirds

If you are eager to improve your photography, there is a simple guideline you can follow called: the rule of thirds. This ‘rule’ was something painters used to improve their composition, and later on it was applied to photography when it became an expressional medium. It is a basic guideline to framing your photographs and having them appear professional. It is equally important to remember that some rules are meant to be broken...

To apply the rule of thirds, you need to visualize your screen (or scene) divided up into three horizontal and three vertical parts. The points, where the lines intersect, are the best positions to place your subject matter. This rule originated from the theory that the human eye naturally moves to points that emerge when you divide an image into thirds.

When you frame your image, it will benefit your overall composition when you ask yourself a few of these questions:

1. What is the most important part of this image?
2. In which direction is the subject looking or moving?
3. What message am I trying to get across?

Asking these questions will assist you in making better choices and provide a guide to using the intersecting points efficiently. The direction in which a subject is looking or moving will help you to visualize if the subject works better placed left or to the right of your frame. In the example below, the subject is looking to the left. Keeping the rule of thirds in mind; the subject was placed off-centre (slightly to the right) allowing the natural flow of your eye from right to left.

Rule-of-thirds example: Landscapes

When composing a landscape shot, ask yourself what your main focus is: the ripples on the water or the dramatic sky? Have two-thirds of your subject on what you feel is the most relevant part of your photograph. In the case below, the spider webs are the focal attraction in the image; hence it filling two-thirds of the frame.

Rule-of-thirds example: counterpoints

When composing a portrait shot of your friend and his big catch, there are two prominent subjects in your photograph. What do you do? Thankfully, the rule of thirds have more than one intersecting point. If you don't feel like the usual straight-on shot, simply play around with a few angles and place your subjects over these points. Focus on your subjects' eyes and you are well away to create appealing and eye-catching photographs.

Like I've mentioned, these rules are only guidelines, and some rules are meant to be broken. In the art world, you will find that geometrical shapes are just as effective to create interesting visuals. Happy practicing! Please email any questions you might have about photography to

By Christelle Grobler


Author: CarpFever

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