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The Rule of Thirds

the rule of thirdsThe rule of thirds is used by artists of all types, from photographers, painters to graphic artists. The rules of third goes way back. Painters have benefited from this rule since the day the Greeks artists have discovered it.

There are some that call it the “Rule of Ninths” instead of the “Rule of thirds “. This principle is easy to understand and apply. Like in photography the rule of thirds is the first thing that photographers learn about in classes and is used as the basis for interesting and well balanced shots. The rule of thirds is also the most well known principle in photographic compositions. If you would like to learn more about composition, I have found one of the most helpful and comprehensive resources to be Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots. It will improve your photographs tremendously.

Too often, most photographers have their subject placed smack on the center of the image, making the image look uninteresting and dull to look at. A simple shift in composition can change all that.

The basis for this rule is the fact that viewer’s attention is actively engaged to a point about two thirds up a page. Thus, when you utilize this technique, you strengthen the focal point you have chosen for your image. It becomes more balanced, making it easier to be more appreciated by the viewer.

Traditional photography is much more on using the “Bull’s Eye Composition wherein you fix the subject in the middle of the camera frame or the viewfinder. A definite no-no in a good composition, it is just too boring and takes away the drama in the image to be captured.

Even if you are an amateur, you can still create awesome photographs if you stick with the Rule of Thirds concept. Rather than focusing your point of interest in the center, place it 1/3 or 2/3 above the frame and you can be sure that the viewer’s eyes will interact more naturally with your captured image.

Break it Up

The basic principle of the Rules of Third is to imagine breaking the image into 3 parts (horizontally and vertically) and you get 9 parts. It’s like having an imaginary line or grid dividing the image.

the rule of thirds

To get dynamic and interesting shots the main subject is to be placed away from the center. Try using the horizontal upper or lower lines for landscape photos and putting the person where the line intersects for portrait photos. The rule of thirds can also be used in cropping the photo when you edit it if you don’t achieve the right look when using a camera.

The theory is making the photo more balanced and that it allows the viewer of the image to interact with it naturally by placing points in the intersections or along the lines.

Built in Grids

With modern digital cameras the rule of third grid is built in. The photographer has an option of turning it on the viewfinder. Some single lens reflex cameras can be replaced with specialized screens like rule of third grid to help with composition. It acts as guide for amateur photographers or for beginners who are seeking to take good shots.

Break the Rule sometimes

Don’t take the rule too seriously though. Rules are meant to be broken and if intuitively, you feel like there’s a better shot out there that doesn’t involve the rule of thirds, then by all means, take it. After all, Ignoring this rule doesn’t mean that the images you shot are not balance and uninteresting.

However, like every wise person says, one has to learn the rules before breaking them. So learn it. Live with it. Play around with it. Then, break it sometimes. You can always be creative and make your own style for more ownable and creative shots.

the rule of thirdsNotice how we do not have the subject in the center. Always take photos with subject away from the center.

the rule of thirds

Although this is a time-honored principle used in photography and other fields such as painting, you do not need to follow it every time you capture an image. This is, rather, a guide to improving the composition of your photos. It is easy to understand and apply but once you master the Rule of Thirds, you are free to explore other techniques because it is up to your personal style and preference how you want to portray your subject. You have other options to consider and just as long as you highlight the essence of your focal point, then there is nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, the Rule of Thirds still is the best way to produce balanced and highly interesting subjects that is why it is the rule for all seasons.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. abby
    Oct 21 2010

    thats cool


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