The Rule of Thirds

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Using the Rule of Thirds


Applying the rule of thirds is a useful guide to eye catching photography

The rule of thirds can be a very useful guide to producing impactful photography. A photographer who uses the rule of thirds usually creates a more striking impression on the viewer, leaving the image more pleasing to the eye. Looking at an image where the rule of thirds hasn’t been implemented can leave the viewer unsatisfied, even if they don’t know why.


What is the rule of thirds? The rule of thirds are guide lines for photography that have intersecting points. It resembles the noughts and crosses diagram.

See below:




The photographer utilises the rule of thirds by deliberately positioning the focal point of their subject along the lines and their intersecting points.


The rule of thirds can be applied in photography in a number of clever ways. The focal point of an image could flow from the top left section of the graph to the top right section of the graph, in the case of a horizon for instance. The subject could be placed on the bottom left or bottom right of the intersecting points, such as a butterfly, or the top right of the intersecting points, as I have done with the flower bud.


How one utilises the rule of thirds in their photography is a personal decision made after determining what you want to achieve. Some subjects work best on specific intersecting points. Subjects placed on the top left or bottom left intersecting points can create immediate impact on the viewer, where as subjects placed on the top right or bottom right of the intersecting points can be appealing in a different way. Think about this…..when we open a book, we read from left to right. In photography, by placing the main feature in a scene on the top, right intersecting point, for example, creates a pleasing journey for the eye. The eye rests comfortably on the focal point of the image towards the right. This is not set in concrete. There are really no limits when it comes to photography actually, however, putting into practice the rule of thirds will enable your images to improve.


There should be a function on your camera (SLR) that turns on the rule of thirds grid. In doing so, as you look through the view finder the rule of thirds will be directly in your line of vision at all times, assisting you with each shot. With the convenience of digital photography these days, you can practice till your heart’s content. Learn from mistakes as you experiment, and rejoice in the impressive shots you are bound to take. The rule of thirds is worth using if you are new to photography, it’s a great guide, however, after a little practice up your sleeve, you won’t need those training wheels any longer, so to speak.


Learning and understanding how to use the rule of thirds and how that tool may be best applied to your particular subjects can lead to gratifying and attractive imagery


On another note, in certain situations, going against the rule of thirds is necessary. That said, I think it is wise to understand the rule of thirds before attempting to overlook it. In other words, you have to understand the rule of thirds before you can neglect with success. Taking the rule of thirds into consideration is something I apply a lot in my own photography. Having been photographing for so long now, I can easily place the focal point of my subject on one of the intersecting cross sections by simply visualizing the rule of thirds. For example, when I have a photo opportunity before me,  I automatically see, in my mind’s eye, the rule of thirds grid within the image I wish to capture.


Next time… what does a photo evoke?


Message from Michelle… smack the focal point on one of the intersecting points…


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