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Rule of Thirds

Simplest Way To Improve Your Composition Skills In Photography

Rule of Thirds

Although it may sound a bit far fledged but the rule of thirds in digital photography (also known as the divine proportion) is actually derived from the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Thanks to the best selling book by Dan Brown we all know what that sequence is and who derived it. That’s right, Leonardo Da Vinci; who some say was the smartest man who ever lived. So what is the rule of thirds and how it works; and most importantly can we break the rule and still shoot great photos? Let’s find out.

What is Rule Of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is simple to describe but is not simple to comprehend why it works. Imagine that your view through the viewfinder is divided by four intersecting lines, two horizontally and two vertically.

Rule of Thirds

The result is that the view is divided into 9 equal rectangles with four points where the lines intersect. Imagine the grid lines of tic-tac-toe and you will get the picture. Right, we are all set. Each intersecting point is also known as the power point (some also refer it as the sweet spot). For some reason the human eye always kind of gets attracted by these imaginary intersecting points. Anything important on or around these power points make the photo look perfect and in balance. This is the part which is difficult to comprehend. Why the human eye does always focuses on the power points? It is hard to imagine why so let’s just accept it as a basic fundamental of a well balanced photograph.

How to apply Rule Of Thirds in Photography?

There are three easy ways to apply or playing with rule of thirds. Actually they are quite simple & easy to master. They are: The Horizontal lines, Vertical LinesPower points.

The Horizon

Let’s start with placing the horizon, specially if you shooting landscape. The secret is, if you want to emphasize the foreground place your horizon close to the top horizontal line.

The Rule of Thirds

This way, the photograph is more balanced because there is enough solid ground in the entirety of the scene without overwhelming the lightness of the sky or the horizon. Same way when the horizon is placed below the second horizontal line, it emphasizes the background (for example sky), there is slightly more sky showing, but the effect is still almost the same.

Vertical lines

Dont forget the vertical lines as well. Simply placing the main subject close to any one of the vertical lines may help you to balance the frame & negative space.

Rule of Thirds

The Power Points

The next point is, the key elements of a photograph should be place on or around these four power points. This automatically balances the photograph and makes it more pleasing to the eye. Let’s take an example. Most amateur photographers have an idea that to shoot a perfect portrait the subject must be positioned bang in the middle.

Example 3

Well sometimes it works, but sometimes, if you can simply put the main elements such as one of the eyes of the subject or may be something such as the setting sun in the horizon (for a landscape shot) on one of the power points the photograph looks a lot better.

Try this, it works!

Just that, you feel this is worth the while and going to seriously affect your compositions, here is a small background. Even before photographers figured this out, artists, sculptures and painters have been using this for hundreds and thousands of years. So this is something that has been well tried and tested and if you can believe me it really works.

Breaking the Rule Of Thirds

So is the rule of thirds the defining rule of photographic compositions and anything and everything shot with a lens and a roll of film or a sensor must follow this? Not quite. While it does make a more dramatic effect, there are plenty of situations where the rule of thirds don’t apply or simply won’t work. Say when shooting a fast action photo which catches a moment in time and freezes it. The absorbing moment in itself is a source of pleasure. Of course in such circumstances it is impossible to actually follow the rule of thirds (and glad that it is so). Another example is when you want to shoot motion blur. Photographers who understand the rule of thirds never shy away from breaking it in order to shoot more intriguing pictures. In photography at least, nothing is laid down in stone and experimentation is what keeps things interesting.

Related Post: 1. Exposure Triangle 2. Depth of Field