Understanding the Rule of Thirds
It’s the most well known principle of composition, and for good reason. The Rule of Thirds helps photographs appear more interesting, subconsciously gives them a natural flow, and creates balance within an image.
Don’t throw away care if you don’t own a DSLR camera or primarily use your phone’s camera for your snaps, however. This rule of thumb can be used in all photography, and for even the most basic of beginners it can make a huge difference in your end results.
Ready to dive into the rule & how to use it? We promise it’s easy!
What Is It?
Understanding and using the Rule of Thirds is simple. Just take your photo and draw 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines. The goal is to divide the photograph into 9 equal parts in which 4 points of intersection can be found.
“Draw lines”…what do you mean?
Most cameras have an option to lay out the grids for you in “Live” mode. Even Instagram has it built in! When you’re taking a photo, make sure the grid lines are on, and voila, you’re ready to take that photo like a pro. However, you don’t need the lines present to take a photo with the rule in mind. Simply imagine them, and they’re there to help! You can even take photos and crop them with the rule in mind later on.
How do I actually use it?
It’s all about positioning. The rule of thirds is meant to help guide how you align subjects in your photo. To do this, you use either the intersection points, or the guidelines. The decision on which to use is completely dependent on the photograph; an image with a strong subject may benefit best from a point of intersection as your key alignment, whereas a photo of a horizon may be best suited to align with a horizontal line as the guide. Sometimes both can be used!
What if it’s a more abstract photograph where lines or intersections aren’t clear?
Here’s the thing – unless your photograph is of a blank space, there is almost always a way to apply it to the Rule of Thirds. One trick to try is to look at your photo and pick out a key subject matter or area of focus, then align that to the rule. This could be anything from a person or object to a horizon line or cloud in the sky.
I think I’ve got it, but I need to see some examples.
Your wish is our command. Below are some examples of the Rule of Thirds, with the guides in place and the “Rule” that was followed bolded in red. Keep in mind that, while we highlighted the key alignment area that we had in mind while taking and/or cropping the photo, there are often multiple lines or intersections that you could follow!
With all this in mind, there’s one very key thing to remember about rules: They were meant to be broken. While the Rule of Thirds is a great guiding light toward taking photos with more sound composition, this doesn’t mean it should be followed every time. For example, if you’re photographing an object against a plain background, often centering that object in the photo is best. Just remember to use your creativity and enjoy the process of exploring how best to capture the moment – photography is supposed to be fun, after all!