Basic Composition - Rule of Thirds

Basic Composition:  The Rule of Thirds

Many people tend to put the object of their focus right in the middle of the viewfinder, and thus it ends up right in the middle of the photo.  However, if you want a more visually appealing photo, you can easily achieve this by following the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds says that a photo or image should be divided into nine equal parts.  Three equal horizontal and vertical parts.  (See grid below.)  Keep the subject of your photo along the red dots and your photos will have more of a visual interest.

The Rule of Thirds is one of the first things aspiring photographers learn about composition of photos and one of the things that gives them more visually interesting photos.

By placing your points of interest or subjects along the lines or at the intersection of the lines, you create a more interesting, visually appealing photo.  It also allows you to show off a pretty background in portrait photography or to show off a beautiful sky or ground, without distracting from it.

Let's apply the Rule of Thirds to these two photos involving landscapes:

Notice the horizon in the first photo falls along the bottom line, allowing the user to see the beautiful blue sky and not a lot of the dark/shadowed beach.  In the second photo the horizon falls in the middle of the photo.  The photo still is pretty, but there is a lot of contrast between the bright orange sky and dark beach, causing the viewer problems knowing which portion to look at first.  

Here's another example using portraits instead of landscapes:  

In the first picture, the subject is right in the middle of the frame.  While it is still an ok picture, moving the subject’s eyes around the upper right section of the picture, creates a visually interesting picture and almost draws you to the subject’s eyes.

If you are just learning photography and composition, try following the Rule of Thirds and see how your photos improve.  Once you've got it down we’ll learn how and when to break the rules..


Edit: Please note she has cropped these pictures. When you are shooting sometimes you need to zoom out a bit and capture the event; crop the picture for good composition later. DO NOT miss the moment worrying about layout, but take your time getting great layouts on non-action pictures. --Tim